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Papers of the Week

2022 Feb 10

Exp Mol Med

Cytosolic escape of mitochondrial DNA triggers cGAS-STING-NLRP3 axis-dependent nucleus pulposus cell pyroptosis.


Zhang W, Li G, Luo R, Lei J, Song Y, Wang B, Ma L, Liao Z, Ke W, Liu H, Hua W, Zhao K, Feng X, Wu X, Zhang Y, Wang K, Yang C
Exp Mol Med. 2022 Feb 10.
PMID: 35145201.


Low back pain (LBP) is a major musculoskeletal disorder and the socioeconomic problem with a high prevalence that mainly involves intervertebral disc (IVD) degeneration, characterized by progressive nucleus pulposus (NP) cell death and the development of an inflammatory microenvironment in NP tissue. Excessively accumulated cytosolic DNA acts as a damage-associated molecular pattern (DAMP) that is monitored by the cGAS-STING axis to trigger the immune response in many degenerative diseases. NLRP3 inflammasome-dependent pyroptosis is a type of inflammatory programmed death that promotes a chronic inflammatory response and tissue degeneration. However, the relationship between the cGAS-STING axis and NLRP3 inflammasome-induced pyroptosis in the pathogenesis of IVD degeneration remains unclear. Here, we used magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and histopathology to demonstrate that cGAS, STING, and NLRP3 are associated with the degree of IVD degeneration. Oxidative stress induced cGAS-STING axis activation and NLRP3 inflammasome-mediated pyroptosis in a STING-dependent manner in human NP cells. Interestingly, the canonical morphological and functional characteristics of mitochondrial permeability transition pore (mPTP) opening with the cytosolic escape of mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) were observed in human NP cells under oxidative stress. Furthermore, the administration of a specific pharmacological inhibitor of mPTP and self-mtDNA cytosolic leakage effectively reduced NLRP3 inflammasome-mediated pyroptotic NP cell death and microenvironmental inflammation in vitro and degenerative progression in a rat disc needle puncture model. Collectively, these data highlight the critical roles of the cGAS-STING-NLRP3 axis and pyroptosis in the progression of IVD degeneration and provide promising therapeutic approaches for discogenic LBP.