Cortistatin protects against intervertebral disc degeneration through targeting mitochondrial ROS-dependent NLRP3 inflammasome activation

Yunpeng Zhao, Cheng Qiu, Wenhan Wang, Jiangfan Peng, Xiang Cheng, Yangtao Shangguan, Mingyang Xu, Jiayi Li, Ruize Qu, Xiaomin Chen, Suyi Jia, Dan Luo, Long Liu, Peng Li, Fengjin Guo, Krasimir Vasilev, Liang Liu, John Hayball, Shuli Dong, Xin PanYuhua Li, Linlin Guo, Lei Cheng, Weiwei Li

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Background: Intervertebral disc (IVD) degeneration is a common degenerative disease that can lead to collapse or herniation of the nucleus pulposus (NP) and result in radiculopathy in patients. Methods: NP tissue and cells were isolated from patients and mice, and the expression profile of cortistatin (CST) was analysed. In addition, ageing of the NP was compared between 6-month-old WT and CST-knockout (CST-/-) mice. Furthermore, NP tissues and cells were cultured to validate the role of CST in TNF-α-induced IVD degeneration. Moreover, in vitro and in vivo experiments were performed to identify the potential role of CST in mitochondrial dysfunction, mitochondrial ROS generation and activation of the NLRP3 inflammasome during IVD degeneration. In addition, NF-κB signalling pathway activity was tested in NP tissues and cells from CST-/- mice. Results: The expression of CST in NP cells was diminished in the ageing- and TNF-α-induced IVD degeneration process. In addition, compared with WT mice, aged CST-/- mice displayed accelerated metabolic imbalance and enhanced apoptosis, and these mice showed a disorganized NP tissue structure. Moreover, TNF-α-mediated catabolism and apoptosis were alleviated by exogenous CST treatment. Furthermore, CST inhibited mitochondrial dysfunction in NP cells through IVD degeneration and suppressed activation of the NLRP3 inflammasome. In vitro and ex vivo experiments indicated that increased NF-κB pathway activity might have been associated with the IVD degeneration observed in CST-/- mice. Conclusion: This study suggests the role of CST in mitochondrial ROS and activation of the NLRP3 inflammasome in IVD degeneration, which might shed light on therapeutic targets for IVD degeneration.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)7015-7033
Number of pages19
Issue number15
Publication statusPublished - 2020
Externally publishedYes


  • Cortistatin
  • Intervertebral disc degeneration
  • Mitochondrial ROS
  • NF-κB signalling pathway
  • NLRP3


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