The expression of hypoxia inducible factor-1alpha and apoptosis in herniated discs

Kee-Yong Ha, In-Jun Koh, Papni Arjandas Kirpalani, Young-Yul Kim, Yun-Kyoung Cho, Gil-Son Khang, Chang Whan Han
Spine 2006 May 20, 31 (12): 1309-13

STUDY DESIGN: Human intervertebral disc was obtained for the study of hypoxia inducible factor (HIF)-1alpha and apoptosis using immunohistochemical staining.

OBJECTIVE: To study the expression of HIF-1alpha and apoptosis in herniated lumbar discs.

SUMMARY OF BACKGROUND DATA: The presence of HIF-1alpha in human chondrocytes and rat intervertebral discs has been proven; however, to our knowledge, its expression in human intervertebral disc cells has not been reported. Apoptosis of the human intervertebral disc appears as a degenerative change caused by the aging of the intervertebral disc. To our knowledge, there is no reported study showing the correlation between apoptosis and HIF-1alpha in the human intervertebral disc.

METHODS: There were 15 human intervertebral discs stained for HIF-1alpha immunohistochemically, and apoptosis was detected using the terminal deoxynucleotidyl transferase mediated-dUTP nick end labeling method. On average, the patients were 32.9 years old. The intervertebral discs were divided into noncontained (9 patients) and contained (6) groups. For the control group, 5 disc samples were used.

RESULTS: The expression of HIF-1alpha was visualized in every case, with an average of 62.2% +/- 9.5% in the noncontained group, 30.5% +/- 3.6% in the contained group, and 11.4% +/- 9.3% in the control group. Apoptosis occurred in 74.3% +/- 7.3% of the cells in the noncontained group, 42.8% +/- 5.5% of the cells in the contained group, and 28% +/- 8.4% of the cells in the control group. HIF-1alpha and apoptosis expressions were both observed more frequently in the noncontained disc herniation group (P < 0.001). The correlation analysis between the degree of HIF-1alpha expression and apoptosis was also statistically significant.

CONCLUSIONS: HIF-1alpha and apoptosis physiologically occur in human beings. Their expression was the highest in the noncontained group. HIF-1alpha may play a crucial role for the survival of disc cells and resorption of the herniated disc in human intervertebral discs.

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