Because miR-146a expression in articular chondrocytes is associated with osteoarthritis (OA), we assessed whether miR-146a is linked to cartilage degeneration in the spine. Monolayer cultures of nucleus pulposus (NP) cells from the intervertebral discs (IVD) of bovine tails were transfected with a miR-146a mimic. To provoke inflammatory responses and catabolic extracellular matrix (ECM) degradation, cells were co-treated with interleukin-1 (IL-1). Transfection of miR-146a decreases IL-1 induced mRNA levels of inflammatory genes and catabolic proteases in NP cells based on quantitative real-time reverse transcriptase PCR (qRT-PCR) analysis. Similarly, miR146a suppresses IL-1 induced protein levels of matrix metalloproteinases and aggrecanases as revealed by immunoblotting. Disc segments from wild type (WT) and miR-146a knockout (KO) mice were cultured ex vivo in the presence or absence of IL-1 for 3. days. Histological and immuno-histochemical (IHC) analyses of disc organ cultures revealed that IL-1 mediates changes in proteoglycan (PG) content and in-situ levels of catabolic proteins (MMP-13 and ADAMTS-5) in the nucleus pulposus of the disc. However, these IL-1 effects are more pronounced in miR-146a KO discs compared to WT discs. For example, absence of miR-146a increases the percentage of MMP-13 and ADAMTS-5 positive cells after treatment with IL-1. Thus, miR-146a appears to protect against IL-1 induced IVD degeneration and inflammation. Stimulation of endogenous miR-146a expression or exogenous delivery of miRNA-146a are viable therapeutic strategies that may decelerate disc degeneration and regain a normal homeostatic balance in extracellular matrix production and turn-over.
- Intervertebral disc degeneration
- Nucleus pulposus
ASJC Scopus subject areas