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Open Access Research article

The role of interleukin-1 in the pathogenesis of human Intervertebral disc degeneration

Christine Lyn Le Maitre, Anthony J Freemont and Judith Alison Hoyland*

Author Affiliations

Division of Laboratory and Regenerative Medicine, School of Medicine, University of Manchester, Manchester, UK

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Arthritis Research & Therapy 2005, 7:R732-R745  doi:10.1186/ar1732

Published: 1 April 2005

Abstract

In this study, we investigated the hypotheses that in human intervertebral disc (IVD) degeneration there is local production of the cytokine IL-1, and that this locally produced cytokine can induce the cellular and matrix changes of IVD degeneration. Immunohistochemistry was used to localize five members of the IL-1 family (IL-1α, IL-1β, IL-1Ra (IL-1 receptor antagonist), IL-1RI (IL-1 receptor, type I), and ICE (IL-1β-converting enzyme)) in non-degenerate and degenerate human IVDs. In addition, cells derived from non-degenerate and degenerate human IVDs were challenged with IL-1 agonists and the response was investigated using real-time PCR for a number of matrix-degrading enzymes, matrix proteins, and members of the IL-1 family.

This study has shown that native disc cells from non-degenerate and degenerate discs produced the IL-1 agonists, antagonist, the active receptor, and IL-1β-converting enzyme. In addition, immunopositivity for these proteins, with the exception of IL-1Ra, increased with severity of degeneration. We have also shown that IL-1 treatment of human IVD cells resulted in increased gene expression for the matrix-degrading enzymes (MMP 3 (matrix metalloproteinase 3), MMP 13 (matrix metalloproteinase 13), and ADAMTS-4 (a disintegrin and metalloproteinase with thrombospondin motifs)) and a decrease in the gene expression for matrix genes (aggrecan, collagen II, collagen I, and SOX6).

In conclusion we have shown that IL-1 is produced in the degenerate IVD. It is synthesized by native disc cells, and treatment of human disc cells with IL-1 induces an imbalance between catabolic and anabolic events, responses that represent the changes seen during disc degeneration. Therefore, inhibiting IL-1 could be an important therapeutic target for preventing and reversing disc degeneration.