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Connective tissue research

Increased macroautophagy in the pathological process of intervertebral disc degeneration in rats.


PMID 22835012

Abstract

Macroautophagy increases with age in rat intervertebral discs; however, the effect of macroautophagy on the process of intervertebral disc degeneration (IVDD) is still unclear. The aim of this study was to examine the presence of autophagosome, as well as the levels of Beclin-1 and LC3 proteins, in vivo. Additionally, in vitro evidence of macroautophagy and GRP78 and GADD153 protein levels were investigated to explore the mechanism of macroautophagy in the process of IVDD. Male Sprague-Dawley rats, aged 2 months, were randomly divided into six groups (three control and three model groups, n = 8 per group). At the 6-, 12-, and 18-week time points, autophagosomes in nucleus pulposus cells were detected with transmission electron microscope (TEM). Expression of Beclin-1 and LC3 protein levels within intervertebral disc was detected using Western blotting analysis. Then, the rat annulus fibrosus cells were isolated and cultured with Earle's balanced salt solution. At 1, 2, and 3 hr of culture, autophagosomes were detected using monodansylcadaverine assay, and LC3, Beclin-1, GRP78, and GADD153 protein levels were detected using Western blotting analysis. Transmission electron microscopy revealed autophagosomes within nucleus pulposus cells in both the control and model groups. At 6-, 12-, and 18-week posttreatments, the levels of Beclin-1 and the LC3-II/LC3-I protein ratio in the model groups were higher than those in the control groups (p < 0.05). Compared with the control rats, amino acid starvation increased the number of monodansylcadaverine-positive cells and the LC3-II/LC3-I protein ratio in the model rats. Moreover, the in vitro levels of Beclin-1, GRP78, and GADD153 proteins were increased with the prolongation of amino acid starvation (p < 0.05). Macroautophagy was present and was associated with increased pathological process of IVDD in rats. Macroautophagy of intervertebral disc cells is possibly secondary to endoplasmic reticulum stress.

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