Human intervertebral disc aggrecan inhibits nerve growth in vitro

William E.B. Johnson, Bruce Caterson, Stephen M. Eisenstein, Dianna L. Hynds, Diane M. Snow, Sally Roberts

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


OBJECTIVE: To assess the effects of human intervertebral disc aggrecan on nerve growth and guidance, using in vitro techniques.
METHODS: Aggrecan extracted from human lumbar intervertebral discs was incorporated into tissue culture substrata for the culture of the human neuronal cell line, SH-SY5Y, or explants of chick dorsal root ganglia. The effects on nerve growth of different concentrations of aggrecan extracted from the anulus fibrosus and nucleus pulposus, and of these aggrecan preparations following enzymic deglycosylation, were compared.
RESULTS: Disc aggrecan inhibited the growth of neurites from SH-SY5Y cells and induced growth cone turning of chick sensory neurites in a concentration-dependent manner. Aggrecan isolated from the anulus fibrosus was more inhibitory than that isolated from the nucleus pulposus, but enzymic pretreatments to reduce the glycosylation of both types of disc aggrecan partially abrogated their inhibitory effects.
CONCLUSION: Nerve growth into degenerate intervertebral discs has been linked with the development of low back pain, but little is known about factors affecting disc innervation. The finding that disc aggrecan inhibits nerve growth in vitro, and that this inhibitory activity depends on aggrecan glycosylation, has important implications for our understanding of mechanisms that may regulate disc innervation in health and disease.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2658-2664
Number of pages7
JournalArthritis and Rheumatism
Issue number10
Early online date16 Oct 2002
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2002


  • aggrecans
  • beta-Galactosidase
  • cell division
  • chick embryo
  • chondroitin ABC lyase
  • extracellular matrix proteins
  • spinal ganglia
  • glycoside hydrolases
  • cultured tumor cells
  • intervertebral disc
  • C-type lectins
  • neuroblastoma
  • neurons
  • proteoglycans


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