Yonsei Med J.  2021 Aug;62(8):734-742. 10.3349/ymj.2021.62.8.734.

Hypoxia Regulates the Extracellular Matrix via Mitogen-Activated Protein Kinases Pathway in Cells Retrieved from the Human Intervertebral Disc

  • 1BK21 Project for Medical Science, Yonsei University College of Medicine, Seoul, Korea
  • 2Department of Orthopedic Surgery, Yonsei University College of Medicine, Seoul, Korea


The present study aimed to identify the physiological characteristics of cells by investigating the change in gene expression and protein levels during extracellular matrix (ECM) synthesis in the intervertebral disc (IVD) under hypoxic conditions.
Materials and Methods
To test the effect of oxygen on cell growth and ECM synthesis of chondrocyte-like cells, the cells from IVD were separated and cultured in two hypoxia-mimicking systems: chemical hypoxic conditions using deferoxamine (DFO), and physiological hypoxic conditions using a hypoxic chamber for 7 days. Chondrocyte like cells cultured without DFO and under the normal oxygen concentration (21% O2 and 5% CO2, 37°C) served as the controls.
Chondrocyte-like cells cultured in the presence of 6% oxygen demonstrated a 100% increase in cellular proliferation compared to the control. The cells treated with chemical hypoxic conditions demonstrated a dose-dependent increase in the mRNA expression of glucose transporter-1, GAPDH, aggrecan, and type II collagen on Day 1. When treated with 100 μM DFO, the cells showed a 50% increase in the levels of proteoglycan protein on Day 7. The cells treated with chemical hypoxic condition demonstrated increase in sulfated glycosaminoglycan (GAG) protein levels on Day 7. Moreover, the cells cultured in the presence of 6% oxygen showed a 120% increase in sulfated GAG levels on Day 7.
The oxygen concentration had an important role in the viability, proliferation, and maturation of chondrocyte-like cells in IVD. In addition, chondrocyte-like cells are sensitive to the concentration of oxygen.


Intervertebral disc; low oxygen; chondrocyte-like cell; proteoglycan; extracellular matrix
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