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J Cell Mol Med. 2019 Mar;23(3):2136-2148. doi: 10.1111/jcmm.14125. Epub 2019 Jan 4.

Melatonin ameliorates intervertebral disc degeneration via the potential mechanisms of mitophagy induction and apoptosis inhibition.

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Department of Orthopaedic Surgery, The Second Afliated Hospital and Yuying Children's Hospital of Wenzhou Medical University, Wenzhou, China.
School of Pharmacy, Key Laboratory of Biotechnology and Pharmaceutical Engineering, Wenzhou Medical University, Wenzhou, China.
Institute of Life Sciences, Wenzhou University, Wenzhou, China.


Intervertebral disc degeneration (IDD) is a complicated disease in patients. The pathogenesis of IDD encompasses cellular oxidative stress, mitochondrion dysfunction and apoptosis. Melatonin eliminates oxygen free radicals, regulates mitochondrial homoeostasis and function, stimulates mitophagy and protects against cellular apoptosis. Therefore, we hypothesize that melatonin has beneficial effect on IDD by mitophagy stimulation and inhibition of apoptosis. The effects of melatonin on IDD were investigated in vitro and in vivo. For the former, melatonin diminished cellular apoptosis caused by tert-butyl hydroperoxide in nucleus pulposus (NP) cells. Mitophagy, as well as its upstream regulator Parkin, was activated by melatonin in both a dose and time-dependent manner. Mitophagy inhibition by cyclosporine A (CsA) partially eliminated the protective effects of melatonin against NP cell apoptosis, suggesting that mitophagy is involved in the protective effect of melatonin on IDD. In addition, melatonin was demonstrated to preserve the extracellular matrix (ECM) content of Collagen II, Aggrecan and Sox-9, while inhibiting the expression of matrix degeneration enzymes, including MMP-13 and ADAMTS-5. In vivo, our results demonstrated that melatonin treatment ameliorated IDD in a puncture-induced rat model. To conclude, our results suggested that melatonin protected NP cells against apoptosis via mitophagy induction and ameliorated disc degeneration, providing the potential therapy for IDD.


apoptosis; intervertebral disc degeneration; melatonin; mitophagy; oxidative stress

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