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Int J Mol Med. 2016 Jun;37(6):1439-48. doi: 10.3892/ijmm.2016.2573. Epub 2016 Apr 21.

Molecular mechanisms of cell death in intervertebral disc degeneration (Review).

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Department of Orthopedics, Changhai Hospital Affiliated to The Second Military Medical University, Shanghai 200433, P.R. China.
Department of Orthopedics, The First Affiliated Hospital of Kunming Medical University, Kunming, Yunnan 650032, P.R. China.
Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Genetics, University of Colorado School of Medicine, Aurora, CO 80045, USA.


Intervertebral discs (IVDs) are complex structures that consist of three parts, namely, nucleus pulposus, annulus fibrosus and cartilage endplates. With aging, IVDs gradually degenerate as a consequence of many factors, such as microenvironment changes and cell death. Human clinical trial and animal model studies have documented that cell death, particularly apoptosis and autophagy, significantly contribute to IVD degeneration. The mechanisms underlying this phenomenon include the activation of apoptotic pathways and the regulation of autophagy in response to nutrient deprivation and multiple stresses. In this review, we briefly summarize recent progress in understanding the function and regulation of apoptosis and autophagy signaling pathways. In particular, we focus on studies that reveal the functional mechanisms of these pathways in IVD degeneration.

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