The presence of pleiotrophin in the human intervertebral disc is associated with increased vascularization: an immunohistologic study

William E.B. Johnson, Angela M. Patterson, Stephen M. Eisenstein, Sally Roberts

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Study Design. An immunohistological study of surgical specimens of human intervertebral disc.Objective.To examine the presence of pleiotrophin in diseased or damaged intervertebral disc tissue and the association between its presence and the extent of tissue vascularization and innervation.Summary of Background Data. Increased levels of pleiotrophin, a growth and differentiation factor that is active in various pathophysiologic processes, including angiogenesis, has been associated with osteoarthritic changes of human articular cartilage. The association between pleiotrophin expression and pathologic conditions of the human intervertebral disc is unknown.Methods. Specimens of human lumbar intervertebral discs, obtained following surgical discectomy, were divided into 3 groups: nondegenerated discs (n = 7), degenerated discs (n = 6), and prolapsed discs (n = 11). Serial tissue sections of each specimen were immunostained to determine the presence of pleiotrophin, blood vessels (CD34-positive endothelial cells), and nerves (neurofilament 200 kDa [NF200]-positive nerve fibers).Results. Pleiotrophin immunoreactivity was seen in disc cells, endothelial cells, and in the extracellular matrix in most specimens of intervertebral disc but was most prevalent in vascularized tissue in prolapsed discs. There was a significant correlation between the presence of pleiotrophin-positive disc cells and that of CD34-positive blood vessels. NF200-positive nerves were seen in vascularized areas of more degenerated discs, but nerves did not appear to codistribute with blood vessels or pleiotrophin positivity in prolapsed discs.Conclusions. Pleiotrophin is present in pathologic human intervertebral discs, and its prevalence and distribution suggest that it may play a role in neovascularization of diseased or damaged disc tissue.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1295-1302
Number of pages8
JournalEuropean Spine Journal
Issue number12
Publication statusPublished - 20 May 2007


  • neurofilament proteins
  • carrier proteins
  • nerve fibers
  • cytokines
  • cytoplasm
  • vascular endothelium
  • extracellular matrix
  • pathologic neovascularization
  • immunohistochemistry
  • intervertebral disc
  • intervertebral disc displacement


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