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J Mol Histol. 2008 Jun;39(3):303-9. doi: 10.1007/s10735-008-9166-1. Epub 2008 Feb 6.

Aquaporin expression in the human intervertebral disc.

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Tissue Injury and Repair Group, School of Clinical and Laboratory Sciences, Faculty of Medical and Human Sciences, The University of Manchester, Manchester M13 9PT, UK.


The nucleus pulposus (NP) of the human intervertebral disc (IVD) is a hyperosmotic tissue that is subjected to daily dynamic compressive loads. In order to survive within this environment the resident chondrocyte-like cells must be able to control their cell volume, whilst also controlling the anabolism and catabolism of their extra-cellular matrix. Recent studies have demonstrated expression of a range of bi-directional, transmembrane water and solute transporters, named aquaporins (AQPs), within chondrocytes of articular cartilage. The aim of this study was to use immunohistochemsitry to investigate the expression of aquaporins 1, 2 and 3 within the human IVD. Results demonstrated expression of both AQP-1 and -3 by cells within the NP and inner annulus fibrosus (AF), while outer AF cells lacked expression of AQP-1 and showed very low numbers of AQP-3 immunopositive cells. Cells from all regions were negative for AQP-2. Therefore this study demonstrates similarities in the phenotype of NP cells and articular chondrocytes, which may be due to similarities in tissue osmolarity and mechanobiology. The decrease in expression of AQPs from the NP to the outer AF may signify changes in cellular phenotype in response to differences in mechanbiology, osmolarity and hydration between the gelatinous NP and the fibrous AF.

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