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Papers of the Week

Papers: 3 Feb 2024 - 9 Feb 2024

2024 Feb 05

Exp Mol Med


Nucleus pulposus cells regulate macrophages in degenerated intervertebral discs via the integrated stress response-mediated CCL2/7-CCR2 signaling pathway.


Tian S, Chen X, Wu W, Lin H, Qing X, Liu S, Wang B, Xiao Y, Shao Z, Peng Y


Lower back pain (LBP), which is a primary cause of disability, is largely attributed to intervertebral disc degeneration (IDD). Macrophages (MΦs) in degenerated intervertebral discs (IVDs) form a chronic inflammatory microenvironment, but how MΦs are recruited to degenerative segments and transform into a proinflammatory phenotype remains unclear. We evaluated chemokine expression in degenerated nucleus pulposus cells (NPCs) to clarify the role of NPCs in the establishment of an inflammatory microenvironment in IDD and explored the mechanisms. We found that the production of C-C motif chemokine ligand 2 (CCL2) and C-C motif chemokine ligand 7 (CCL7) was significantly increased in NPCs under inflammatory conditions, and blocking CCL2/7 and their receptor, C-C chemokine receptor type 2(CCR2), inhibited the inductive effects of NPCs on MΦ infiltration and proinflammatory polarization. Moreover, activation of the integrated stress response (ISR) was obvious in IDD, and ISR inhibition reduced the production of CCL2/7 in NPCs. Further investigation revealed that activating Transcription Factor 3 (ATF3) responded to ISR activation, and ChIP-qPCR verified the DNA-binding activity of ATF3 on CCL2/7 promoters. In addition, we found that Toll-like receptor 4 (TLR4) inhibition modulated ISR activation, and TLR4 regulated the accumulation of mitochondrial reactive oxygen species (mtROS) and double-stranded RNA (dsRNA). Downregulating the level of mtROS reduced the amount of dsRNA and ISR activation. Deactivating the ISR or blocking CCL2/7 release alleviated inflammation and the progression of IDD in vivo. Moreover, MΦ infiltration and IDD were inhibited in CCR2-knockout mice. In conclusion, this study highlights the critical role of TLR4/mtROS/dsRNA axis-mediated ISR activation in the production of CCL2/7 and the progression of IDD, which provides promising therapeutic strategies for discogenic LBP.