Research Papers:

Follistatin-like protein 1 promotes inflammatory reactions in nucleus pulposus cells by interacting with the MAPK and NFκB signaling pathways

Yi Liu, Jianlu Wei, Yunpeng Zhao, Yuanqiang Zhang, Yingguang Han, Bin Chen, Kaiyuan Cheng, Jialin Jia, Lin Nie and Lei Cheng _

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Oncotarget. 2017; 8:43023-43034. https://doi.org/10.18632/oncotarget.17400

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Yi Liu1, Jianlu Wei1, Yunpeng Zhao1, Yuanqiang Zhang1,2, Yingguang Han1, Bin Chen1, Kaiyuan Cheng1, Jialin Jia1, Lin Nie1 and Lei Cheng1

1Department of Orthopedics, Qilu Hospital of Shandong University, Jinan, China

2Department of Orthopedics, Affiliated Hospital of Shandong Academy of Medical Sciences, Jinan, China

Correspondence to:

Lei Cheng, email: [email protected]

Keywords: FSTL1, lumbar disc herniation, Inflammation, MAPK signaling, NFκB signaling

Received: February 21, 2017    Accepted: April 11, 2017    Published: April 24, 2017


Objective: Follistatin-like protein 1 (FSTL1) is a well-known mediator of inflammation. Intervertebral disc disease is an inflammatory disorder. Here, we investigated the role of FSTL1 in the intervertebral discs inflammation.

Methods: Expression of FSTL1 in nucleus pulposus tissues from rats and human was determined by immunohistochemistry staining and western blot analysis. The expression levels of tumor necrosis factor-α (TNF-α), interleukin1-β (IL-1β) and matrix metalloproteinase 13 (MMP-13) in human and rat nucleus pulposus tissues were measured by immunohistochemistry staining. The mitogen-activated protein kinase (MAPK) and nuclear factor-kappa B (NFκB) signaling pathways were detected by western blotting.

Results: FSTL1 serum levels were significantly increased in lumbar disc herniation patients and had a positive correlation with Visual Analogue Scores. Additionally, FSTL1 expression was significantly increased in extrusion group compared with protrusion and control groups. Furthermore, FSTL1 expression was significantly increased in intervertebral disc degeneration models of rats. Immunohistochemistry staining demonstrated that the levels of TNF-α, IL-1β and MMP-13 were increased in the pathogenesis of intervertebral disc disease. Recombinant human FSTL1 significantly increased the production of proinflammatory cytokines in vitro. In addition, FSTL1 promoted inflammation by activating c-Jun N-terminal kinase (JNK), extracellular regulated protein kinases 1/2(ERK1/2) and NFκB signaling.

Conclusions: These data imply that FSTL1 expression was increased in the pathogenesis of intervertebral disc disease. Importantly, FSTL1 promoted inflammatory catabolism in the nucleus pulposus by activating JNK, ERK 1/2/MAPK and NFκB signaling.

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