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Papers of the Week

Papers: 13 May 2023 - 19 May 2023

Basic Science

Animal Studies, Molecular/Cellular, Neurobiology

Inflammation/Inflammatory, Musculoskeletal Pain

2023 Feb 16

Aging Dis


Loss of Pinch Proteins Causes Severe Degenerative Disc Disease-Like Lesions in Mice.


Wu X, Chen M, Lin S, Chen S, Gu J, Wu Y, Qu M, Gong W, Yao Q, Li H, Zou X, Chen D, Xiao G


Degenerative disc disease (DDD) is one of the most common skeletal disorders affecting aged populations. DDD is the leading cause of low back/neck pain, resulting in disability and huge socioeconomic burdens. However, the molecular mechanisms underlying DDD initiation and progression remain poorly understood. Pinch1 and Pinch2 are LIM-domain-containing proteins with crucial functions in mediating multiple fundamental biological processes, such as focal adhesion, cytoskeletal organization, cell proliferation, migration, and survival. In this study, we found that Pinch1 and Pinch2 were both highly expressed in healthy intervertebral discs (IVDs) and dramatically downregulated in degenerative IVDs in mice. Deleting Pinch1 in aggrecan-expressing cells and Pinch2 globally (Aggrecan; Pinch1; Pinch2) caused striking spontaneous DDD-like lesions in lumbar IVDs in mice. Pinch loss inhibited cell proliferation and promotes extracellular matrix (ECM) degradation and apoptosis in lumbar IVDs. Pinch loss markedly enhanced the production of pro-inflammatory cytokines, especially TNFα, in lumbar IVDs and exacerbated instability-induced DDD defects in mice. Pharmacological inhibition of TNFα signaling mitigated the DDD-like lesions caused by Pinch loss. In human degenerative NP samples, reduced expression of Pinch proteins was correlated with severe DDD progression and a markedly upregulated expression of TNFα. Collectively, we demonstrate the crucial role of Pinch proteins in maintaining IVD homeostasis and define a potential therapeutic target for DDD.