European Cells and Materials
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The molecular regulators of mechano-transduction in intervertebral disc (IVD) cells are not well understood. The aim of the present study was to characterise the expression and function of the mechano-sensitive ion channel TRPV4 in the IVD. A novel transgenic reporter mouse, in which the endogenous Trpv4 locus drove the expression of LacZ, was used to localise Trpv4 expression at specific stages of spine development [embryonic day (E) 8.5, 12.5, 17.5, postnatal day 1] and time points following skeletal maturity (2.5, 6, 9 and 12 months). The TRPV4-specific agonist GSK1016790A and antagonist GSK2193874 were used to assess the functional response of annulus fibrosus (AF) cells using epifluorescence imaging with Ca2+-sensitive Fura-2 dye and F-actin staining. The effects of TRPV4 agonism and antagonism in mechanically stimulated AF cells were quantified by gene expression analysis. Trpv4 expression was specific to the developing notochord and intervertebral mesenchyme at E12.5. At 2.5, 6 and 9 months, Trpv4 expression was detected in the nucleus pulposus, inner AF, cartilage endplate and vertebral growth plate. AF cells treated with GSK1016790A demonstrated heterogeneity in TRPV4-dependent Ca2+ responses (no response, calcium oscillation or sustained response). TRPV4-induced Ca2+ signalling was associated with Rho/ROCK-dependent actin cytoskeleton remodelling and stress-fibre formation. In AF cells, cyclic-tensile-strain-induced changes in Acan and Prg4 expression were mediated by TRPV4 channel activation. These data establish TRPV4 as an important mechano-sensor regulating IVD mechano-biology.