Yonsei Med J.  2013 Jul;54(4):807-812. 10.3349/ymj.2013.54.4.807.

Regulatory Role of Hypoxia Inducible Factor in the Biological Behavior of Nucleus Pulposus Cells

  • 1Department of Orthopedics Surgery, The Second Hospital of Medical College, Zhejiang University, Hangzhou, China. zrcqx@zju.edu.cn


Intervertebral disc (IVD) degeneration is implicated as a major cause of low back pain. The alternated phenotypes, reduced cell survival, decreased metabolic activity, loss of matrix production and dystrophic mineralization of nucleus pulposus (NP) cells may be key contributors to progressive IVD degeneration. IVD is the largest avascular structure in the body, characterized by low oxygen tension in vivo. Hypoxia-inducible factor (HIF) is a master transcription factor that is induced upon hypoxia and directs coordinated cellular responses to hypoxic environments. This review summarizes relevant studies concerning the involvement of HIF in the regulation of biological behaviors of NP cells. We describe current data on the expression of HIF in NP cells and further discuss the various roles that HIF plays in the regulation of the phenotype, survival, metabolism, matrix production and dystrophic mineralization of NP cells. Here, we conclude that HIF may be a promising target for the prevention and treatment of IVD degeneration.


Hypoxia inducible factor; intervertebral disc degeneration; nucleus pulposus

MeSH Terms

Basic Helix-Loop-Helix Transcription Factors/genetics/*metabolism
Cell Survival
Extracellular Matrix/metabolism
Hypoxia-Inducible Factor 1/genetics/*metabolism
Intervertebral Disc/*cytology/metabolism
Intervertebral Disc Degeneration/*metabolism/*pathology
Basic Helix-Loop-Helix Transcription Factors
Hypoxia-Inducible Factor 1
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