Cytokines and growth factors in the protruded intervertebral disc of the lumbar spine

Eur Spine J. 2002 Apr;11(2):145-51. doi: 10.1007/s00586-001-0361-y. Epub 2002 Jan 11.


Nerve root irritation induced by factors produced by the intervertebral disc may play a crucial role in the pathophysiology of sciatic pain production. In this study we used immunohistochemistry to investigate the presence of transforming growth factor-beta1 (TGF-beta1), insulin-like growth factor-1 (IGF-1), interleukin-6 (IL-6), IL-6-receptor (IL-6R) and fibronectin in lumbar disc bioptic specimens from 30 patients with disc herniation (protrusion type). Chondrocytes of herniated discs stained positive for TGF-beta1, IGF-1, IL-6 and fibronectin. We demonstrated for the first time the presence of IL-6-R in the chondrocytes of herniated tissue. Specimens from autoptic healthy tissue were used as controls. In these sections no immunoreaction for TGF-beta1, IL-6, or IL-6R was found, while they expressed IGF-1 and fibronectin, but in lower quantities than herniated discs. These results demonstrated the production of factors such as TGF-beta1, IGF-1, IL-6, IL-6R and fibronectin at the site of lumbar disc herniation.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Cytokines / metabolism*
  • Female
  • Growth Substances / metabolism*
  • Humans
  • Immunohistochemistry
  • Insulin-Like Growth Factor I / metabolism
  • Interleukin-6 / metabolism
  • Intervertebral Disc / metabolism*
  • Intervertebral Disc / pathology
  • Intervertebral Disc Displacement / metabolism*
  • Intervertebral Disc Displacement / pathology
  • Lumbar Vertebrae*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Receptors, Interleukin-6 / metabolism
  • Transforming Growth Factor beta / metabolism
  • Transforming Growth Factor beta1


  • Cytokines
  • Growth Substances
  • Interleukin-6
  • Receptors, Interleukin-6
  • TGFB1 protein, human
  • Transforming Growth Factor beta
  • Transforming Growth Factor beta1
  • Insulin-Like Growth Factor I