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Spine (Phila Pa 1976). 2004 Nov 15;29(22):2477-84.

Selective inhibition of tumor necrosis factor-alpha prevents nucleus pulposus-induced histologic changes in the dorsal root ganglion.

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Department of Orthopaedics, School of Medicine, Chiba University, Chiba, Japan.



The possibility to prevent nucleus pulposus-induced structural changes of the dorsal root ganglion (DRG) by selective tumor necrosis factor-alpha (TNF-alpha) inhibition was assessed in an experimental model in the rat spine.


To evaluate the role of TNF-alpha in the mediation of nucleus pulposus-induced structural changes by using selective inhibition and to confirm the effect of TNF-alpha inhibitor at the point of histologic findings.


TNF-alpha is known to be released from the nucleus pulposus, and has been suggested to play a key role in chemical damage of the adjacent nerve tissue. The TNF-alpha inhibitor prevents the reduction of nerve conduction velocity and may limit the nerve fiber injury, intracapillary thrombus formation, and intraneural edema formation caused by nucleus pulposus. However, there is no report on the effect of the inhibitor regarding histologic findings and the appearance of the TNF-alpha in the DRG exposed to nucleus pulposus.


1) Rats were treated with an intraperitoneal injection of infliximab. Nucleus pulposus from the disc was obtained 1, 3, 7, 14, and 21 days after the injection. The TNF-alpha-positive cells were observed using immunohistochemistry. 2) Disc herniation of the nucleus pulposus was made on the L4-L5 disc in rats. Two groups were treated with selective TNF-alpha inhibitor 1 day before or 3 hours after surgery. The other group received no TNF-alpha inhibitor. The L4 DRG was resected 1, 3, 7, 14, and 21 days after surgery. The specimens were processed for hematoxylin and eosin staining and immunohistochemistry using rabbit antisera to TNF-alpha. The histologic findings and TNF-alpha-positive cells were observed by light microscopy.


1) While positively stained immunoreactive TNF-alpha appeared between 7 and 21 days, no immunoreactive TNF-alpha was observed 1 and 3 days after injection in the nucleus pulposus. 2) The histologic changes of the DRG caused by nucleus pulposus were smaller in the infliximab treatment group than those in the nontreatment group. The number of immunoreactive TNF-alpha cells was high 1 and 3 days after surgery in the DRGs of disc herniation rats that were treated without an injection of the inhibitor, low on day 7 and 14, and very low on day 21 after surgery. No immunoreactive TNF-alpha was observed in the DRGs of the TNF-alpha inhibitor treatment groups on day 1, 3, and 21 after surgery. Weakly stained cells were sometimes observed in rats at day 7 and 14 after surgery.


Infliximab may prevent the histologic damage induced by nucleus pulposus. When rats were given a single intraperitoneal injection of infliximab at the beginning of disc herniation, the histologic damage seemed to be reduced in comparison with the nontreated rats.

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