Basic Study
Copyright ©The Author(s) 2018. Published by Baishideng Publishing Group Inc. All rights reserved.
World J Gastroenterol. Jul 28, 2018; 24(28): 3130-3144
Published online Jul 28, 2018. doi: 10.3748/wjg.v24.i28.3130
Moxibustion treatment modulates the gut microbiota and immune function in a dextran sulphate sodium-induced colitis rat model
Qin Qi, Ya-Nan Liu, Xiao-Ming Jin, Lin-Shuang Zhang, Cun Wang, Chun-Hui Bao, Hui-Rong Liu, Huan-Gan Wu, Xiao-Mei Wang
Qin Qi, Ya-Nan Liu, Cun Wang, Yueyang Clinical Medical College, Shanghai University of Traditional Chinese Medicine, Shanghai 200437, China
Xiao-Ming Jin, Stark Neurosciences Research Institute and Department of Anatomy and Cell Biology, Indiana University School of Medicine, Indianapolis, IN 46202, United States
Lin-Shuang Zhang, Zhejiang Institute for Food and Drug Control, Hangzhou 310052, Zhejiang Province, China
Chun-Hui Bao, Hui-Rong Liu, Huan-Gan Wu, Xiao-Mei Wang, Shanghai Research Institute of Acupuncture-moxibustion and Meridian, Shanghai University of Traditional Chinese Medicine, Shanghai 200030, China
Author contributions: Wang XM conceived and designed the study; Qi Q and Wang XM wrote the main manuscript text; Qi Q and Liu YN performed animal experiments; Jin XM collected data; Wang C and Bao CH analysed data; Liu HR and Wu HG prepared figures and tables; Jin XM and Zhang LS edited and improved the manuscript; all authors reviewed the manuscript.
Supported by National Natural Science Foundation of China, No. 81473758; and National Basic Research Programme of China (973 programme), No. 2015CB554500.
Institutional review board statement: The study was reviewed and approved by the Ethics Committee of Yueyang Hospital of Integrated Traditional Chinese and Western Medicine, Shanghai University of Traditional Chinese Medicine.
Institutional animal care and use committee statement: All procedures involving animals were reviewed and approved by the Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee of Shanghai University of Traditional Chinese Medicine (IACUC protocol number: 201611006).
Conflict-of-interest statement: To the best of our knowledge, no conflict of interest exists.
Data sharing statement: No additional data are available.
ARRIVE guidelines statement: The authors have read the ARRIVE guidelines, and the manuscript was prepared and revised according to the ARRIVE guidelines.
Open-Access: This article is an open-access article which was selected by an in-house editor and fully peer-reviewed by external reviewers. It is distributed in accordance with the Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial (CC BY-NC 4.0) license, which permits others to distribute, remix, adapt, build upon this work non-commercially, and license their derivative works on different terms, provided the original work is properly cited and the use is non-commercial. See:
Correspondence to: Xiao-Mei Wang, MD, PhD, Associate Professor, Shanghai Research Institute of Acupuncture-moxibustion and Meridian, Shanghai University of Traditional Chinese Medicine, 650 South Wanping Road, Xuhui District, Shanghai 200030, China.
Telephone: +86-21-64381106
Received: April 9, 2018
Peer-review started: April 9, 2018
First decision: May 9, 2018
Revised: May 22, 2018
Accepted: June 25, 2018
Article in press: June 25, 2018
Published online: July 28, 2018

To investigate the effect and mechanism of moxibustion in rats with ulcerative colitis.


A rat colitis model was established by administering 4% dextran sulphate sodium solution. Seventy male rats were randomly divided into seven groups: Healthy controls (HC), ulcerative colitis model group (UC), UC with 7 d of moxibustion (UC-7), UC with 14 d of moxibustion (UC-14), UC with mesalazine gavage (UC-W), HC with 7 d of moxibustion (HC-7), HC with 14 d of moxibustion (HC-14). Moxibustion was applied to the bilateral Tianshu (ST25). Gut microbiome profiling was conducted by 16S rRNA amplicon sequencing, and PCR and ELISA determined the expression of inflammatory cytokines in colon mucosa and serum, respectively.


Moxibustion treatment restored the colonic mucosa and decreased submucosal inflammatory cell infiltration in colitis rats. Rats treated with moxibustion and mesalazine had significantly lower levels of the dominant phyla Proteobacteria and the genera Saccharibacteria, Sphingomonas and Barnesiella than colitis rats, and they could restore the microbiome to levels similar to those observed in healthy rats. UC rats had reduced alpha diversity, which could be alleviated by moxibustion therapy, and UC-7 had a higher alpha diversity than UC-14. This finding suggests that short-term (7 d) but no longer term (14 d) moxibustion treatment may significantly affect the gut microbiome. The potential bacterial functions affected by moxibustion may be ascorbate and aldarate metabolism, and amino acid metabolism. Compared with HC group, the levels of the cytokines interleukin-12 (IL-12) (P < 0.05) and IL-6, IL-17, IL-23, interferon-γ, lipopolysaccharide, IgA, tumour necrosis factor-α and its receptors 1 (TNFR1) and TNFR2 (P < 0.01) were all increased, whereas anti-inflammatory cytokine IL-2 and IL-10 (P < 0.01) and transforming growth factor-β (P < 0.05) were decreased in UC rats. These changes were reversed by moxibustion.


Our findings suggest that moxibustion exerts its therapeutic effect by repairing mucosal tissue damage and modulating the gut microbiome and intestinal mucosal immunity.

Keywords: Ulcerative colitis, Moxibustion, 16S rRNA, Gut microbiome, Inflammatory cytokine

Core tip: Ulcerative colitis (UC) is a form of inflammatory bowel disease and microbial dysbiosis is an important pathological factor of UC. Moxibustion treatment can repair mucosal tissue damage and regulate immune function in patients with UC associated with gut microbiome changes. In this study, moxibustion can significantly reduce the colonic tissue damage and the levels of pro-inflammatory cytokines and anti-inflammatory cytokines in rats with 4% dextran sulphate sodium-induced ulcerative colitis, relieve intestinal inflammation, and promote the restoration of impaired colonic tissue. In addition, moxibustion can increase the diversity of the gut microbiome and the UC with 7 d of moxibustion had a higher alpha diversity than UC with 14 d of moxibustion.