Ligustrazine Prevents Intervertebral Disc Degeneration via Suppression of Aberrant TGF β Activation in Nucleus Pulposus Cells

Shufen Liu, Yuhao Cheng, Yuqi Tan, Jingcheng Dong, Qin Bian

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


Objectives. Aberrant transforming growth factor β (TGFβ) activation is detrimental to both nucleus pulposus (NP) cells and cartilage endplates (CEPs), which can lead to intervertebral disc degeneration (IDD). Ligustrazine (LIG) reduces the expression of inflammatory factors and TGFβ1 in hypertrophic CEP to prevent IDD. In this study, we investigate the effects of LIG on NP cells and the TGFβ signaling. Design. LIG was injected to the lumbar spinal instability (LSI) mouse model. The effect of LIG was evaluated by intervertebral disc (IVD) score in the LSI mouse model. The expression of activated TGFβ was examined using immunostaining with pSmad2/3 antibody. The upright posture (UP) rat model was also treated and evaluated in the same manner to assess the effect of LIG. In ex vivo study, IVDs from four-week old mice were isolated and treated with 10-5, 10-6, and 10-7 M of LIG. We used western blot to detect activated TGFβ expression. TGFβ-treated human nucleus pulposus cells (HNPCs) were cotreated with optimized dose of LIG in vitro. Immunofluorescence staining was performed to determine pSmad2/3, connective tissue growth factor (CCN2), and aggrecan (ACAN) expression levels. Results. IVD score and the percentage of pSmad2/3+ NP cells were low in LIG-treated LSI mice in comparison with LSI mice, but close to the levels in the Sham group. Similarly, LIG reduced the overexpression of TGFβ1 in NP cells. The inhibitory effect of LIG was dose dependent. A dose of 10-5 M LIG not only strongly attenuated Smad2/3 phosphorylation in TGFβ-treated IVD ex vivo but also suppressed pSmad2/3, CCN2, and ACAN expression in TGFβ-treated NP cells in vitro. Conclusions. LIG prevents IDD via suppression of TGFβ overactivation in NP cells.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number5601734
JournalBioMed research international
StatePublished - 2019
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Immunology and Microbiology(all)
  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)


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