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Open Access Research article

An organ culture system to model early degenerative changes of the intervertebral disc II: profiling global gene expression changes

Dessislava Z Markova1, Christopher K Kepler13, Sankar Addya2, Hallie B Murray4, Alexander R Vaccaro13, Irving M Shapiro1, D Greg Anderson13, Todd J Albert13 and Makarand V Risbud1*

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Orthopaedic Surgery, Thomas Jefferson University, 1015 Walnut Street, Philadelphia, PA 19107, USA

2 Department of Cancer Biology, Kimmel Cancer Center, Thomas Jefferson University, 233 South 10th Street, Philadelphia, PA 19107, USA

3 Department of Orthopaedic Surgery, Rothman Institute, 925 Chestnut Street, Philadelphia, PA 19107, USA

4 Biomet Spine, Biomet Inc., 100 Interpace Parkway, Parsippany, NJ 07054, USA

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Arthritis Research & Therapy 2013, 15:R121  doi:10.1186/ar4301

Published: 16 September 2013

Abstract

Introduction

Despite many advances in our understanding of the molecular basis of disc degeneration, there remains a paucity of preclinical models which can be used to study the biochemical and molecular events that drive disc degeneration, and the effects of potential therapeutic interventions. The goal of this study is to characterize global gene expression changes in a disc organ culture system that mimics early nontraumatic disc degeneration.

Methods

To mimic a degenerative insult, rat intervertebral discs were cultured in the presence of TNF-α, IL-1β and serum-limiting conditions. Gene expression analysis was performed using a microarray to identify differential gene expression between experimental and control groups. Differential pattern of gene expression was confirmed using quantitative reverse transcriptase polymerase chain reaction (qRT-PCR) or Western blot.

Results

Treatment resulted in significant changes in expression of more than 1,000 genes affecting many aspects of cell function including cellular movement, the cell cycle, cellular development, and cell death and proliferation. Many of the most highly upregulated and downregulated genes have known functions in disc degeneration and extracellular matrix hemostasis. Construction of gene networks based on known cellular pathways and expression data from our analysis demonstrated that the network associated with cell death, cell cycle regulation and DNA replication and repair was most heavily affected in this model of disc degeneration.

Conclusions

This rat organ culture model uses cytokine exposure to induce wide gene expression changes with the most affected genes having known reported functions in disc degeneration. We propose that this model is a valuable tool to study the etiology of disc degeneration and evaluate potential therapeutic treatments.