Research Papers: Gerotarget (Focus on Aging):

Estrogen receptors involvement in intervertebral discogenic pain of the elderly women: colocalization and correlation with the expression of Substance P in nucleus pulposus

Xiao-Xing Song, Sheng Shi, Zhen Guo, Xin-Feng Li and Bu-Wei Yu _

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Oncotarget. 2017; 8:38136-38144. https://doi.org/10.18632/oncotarget.15421

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Xiao-Xing Song1,2,*, Sheng Shi2,*, Zhen Guo3,*, Xin-Feng Li2 and Bu-Wei Yu1

1 Department of Anesthesiology, Rui Jin Hospital, School of Medicine, Shanghai Jiao Tong University, Shanghai, China

2 Department of Orthopaedic Surgery, Ren Ji Hospital, School of Medicine, Shanghai Jiao Tong University, Shanghai, China

3 Department of Orthopaedic Surgery, Yang Pu Hospital, Tongji University, Shanghai, China

* These authors have contributed equally to this work

Correspondence to:

Bu-Wei Yu, email:

Xin-Feng Li, email:

Keywords: intervertebral disc, pain, estrogen receptor, nucleus pulposus, substance P, Gerotarget

Received: December 20, 2016 Accepted: February 08, 2017 Published: February 16, 2017


Estrogenic modulation of pain is an exceedingly complex phenomenon. However, whether estrogen is involved in discogenic low back pain still remains unclear. Here, immunoreactivity staining technique was used to examine the expression level of the estrogen receptors (ERα and ERβ) and a pain related neuropeptide, Substance P in the lumbar intervertebral discs to analyze the relationship between the ERs and Substance P. Nucleus pulposus tissues of 23 elderly female patients were harvested during spinal surgeries and made to detect the immunoreactivity staining of ERα, ERβ and Substance P. The colocalization and intensities of ERs and Substance P were explored and evaluated respectively. The correlations between changes of ERα, ERβ and Substance P were also assessed.Our results revealed that Substance P colocalized with ERα and ERβ both in cytoplasm and nucleus of the nucleus pulposus cells. HSCORE analysis indicated that Substance P negatively correlated with both ERα and ERβ expression. Collectively, the crosstalk between ERs and Substance P might exist in the disc tissue. Estrogen-dependent pain mechanism might partly be mediated through ERs and Substance P in the nucleus pulposus of the elderly females. Estrogen and its receptors might be drug targets in discogenic low back pain diseases.

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