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Transient Receptor Potential Vanilloid 4 Regulates Extracellular Matrix Composition and Mediates Load-Induced Intervertebral Disc Degeneration in a Mouse Model.

OBJECTIVE: Transient receptor potential vanilloid 4 (TRPV4) is a multi-modally activated cation channel that mediates mechanotransduction pathways by which musculoskeletal tissues respond to mechanical load and regulate tissue health. Using conditional Trpv4 knockout mice, we investigated the role of Trpv4 in regulating intervertebral disc (IVD) health and injury-induced IVD degeneration.

METHODS: Col2Cre;Trpv4fl/f (Trpv4 KO) mice were used to knockout Trpv4 in all type 2 collagen-expressing cells. Effects of gene targeting alone was assessed in lumbar spines, using vertebral bone length measurement, histological, immunohistochemistry and gene expression analyses, and mechanical testing. Disc puncture was performed on caudal IVDs of wild-type (WT) and Trpv4 KO mice at 2.5- and 6.5-months-of-age. 6 weeks after puncture (4- and 8-months-of-age at sacrifice), caudal spines were assessed using histological analyses.

RESULTS: While loss of Trpv4 did not significantly alter vertebral bone length and tissue histomorphology compared to age-matched WT mice, Trpv4 KO mice showed decreased proteoglycan and PRG4 staining in the AF compared to WT. At the gene level, Trpv4 KO mice showed significantly increased expression of Acan, Bgn, and Prg4 compared to WT. Functionally, loss of Trpv4 was associated with significantly increased neutral zone length in lumbar IVDs. Following puncture, both Trpv4 KO and WT mice showed similar signs of degeneration at the site of injury. Interestingly, loss of Trpv4 prevented mechanically-induced degeneration in IVDs adjacent to sites of injury.

CONCLUSION: These studies suggest a role for Trpv4 in regulating extracellular matrix synthesis and mediating the response of IVD tissues to mechanical stress.

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