As the most common cause of low back pain, the cascade of intervertebral disc (IVD) degeneration is initiated by the disappearance of notochordal cells and progressive loss of proteoglycan (PG). Limited nutrient supply in the avascular disc environment restricts the production of ATP which is an essential energy source for cell survival and function such as PG biosynthesis. The objective of this study was to examine ATP level and PG production of porcine IVD cells under prolonged exposure to hypoxia with physiological glucose concentrations. The results showed notochordal NP and AF cells responded differently to changes of oxygen and glucose. Metabolic activities (including PG production) of IVD cells are restricted under the in-vivo nutrient conditions while NP notochordal cells are likely to be more vulnerable to reduced nutrition supply. Moreover, provision of energy, together or not with genetic regulation, may govern PG production in the IVD under restricted nutrient supply. Therefore, maintaining essential levels of nutrients may reduce the loss of notochordal cells and PG in the IVD. This study provides a new insight into the metabolism of IVD cells under nutrient deprivation and the information for developing treatment strategies for disc degeneration.
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