Oxidative damage is a well-established driver of aging. Evidence of oxidative stress exists in aged and degenerated discs, but it is unclear how it affects disc metabolism. In this study, we first determined whether oxidative stress negatively impacts disc matrix metabolism using disc organotypic and cell cultures. Mouse disc organotypic culture grown at atmospheric oxygen (20% O2) exhibited perturbed disc matrix homeostasis, including reduced proteoglycan synthesis and enhanced expression of matrix metalloproteinases, compared to discs grown at low oxygen levels (5% O2). Human disc cells grown at 20% O2 showed increased levels of mitochondrial- derived superoxide anions and perturbed matrix homeostasis. Treatment of disc cells with the mitochondria-targeted reactive oxygen species (ROS) scavenger XJB-5-131 blunted the adverse effects caused by 20% O2. Importantly, we demonstrated that treatment of accelerated aging Ercc1-/Δ mice, previously established to be a useful in vivo model to study age-related intervertebral disc degeneration (IDD), also resulted in improved disc total glycosaminoglycan content and proteoglycan synthesis. This demonstrates that mitochondrial-derived ROS contributes to age-associated IDD in Ercc1 -/Δ mice. Collectively, these data provide strong experimental evidence that mitochondrial-derived ROS play a causal role in driving changes linked to aging-related IDD and a potentially important role for radical scavengers in preventing IDD.
- intervertebral discs
- matrix proteoglycan
- oxidative stress
- radical scavenger
- reactive oxygen species (ROS)