While it is well known that mechanical signals can either promote or disrupt intervertebral disc (IVD) homeostasis, the molecular mechanisms for transducing mechanical stimuli are not fully understood. The transient receptor potential vanilloid 4 (TRPV4) ion channel activated in isolated IVD cells initiates extracellular matrix (ECM) gene expression, while TRPV4 ablation reduces cytokine production in response to circumferential stretching. However, the role of TRPV4 on ECM maintenance during tissue-level mechanical loading remains unknown. Using an organ culture model, we modulated TRPV4 function over both short- (hours) and long-term (days) and evaluated the IVDs' response. Activating TRPV4 with the agonist GSK101 resulted in a Ca2+ flux propagating across the cells within the IVD. Nuclear factor (NF)-κB signaling in the IVD peaked at 6 h following TRPV4 activation that subsequently resulted in higher interleukin (IL)-6 production at 7 days. These cellular responses were concomitant with the accumulation of glycosaminoglycans and increased hydration in the nucleus pulposus that culminated in higher stiffness of the IVD. Sustained compressive loading of the IVD resulted in elevated NF-κB activity, IL-6 and vascular endothelial growth factor A (VEGFA) production, and degenerative changes to the ECM. TRPV4 inhibition using GSK205 during loading mitigated the changes in inflammatory cytokines, protected against IVD degeneration, but could not prevent ECM disorganization due to mechanical damage in the annulus fibrosus. These results indicate TRPV4 plays an important role in both short- and long-term adaptations of the IVD to mechanical loading. The modulation of TRPV4 may be a possible therapeutic for preventing load-induced IVD degeneration.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere22714
JournalFASEB Journal
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 2023


  • NF-kappa B
  • TRPV cation channels
  • annulus fibrosus
  • extracellular matrix
  • inflammation
  • intervertebral disc
  • vascular endothelial growth factor A


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