Accumulation of methylglyoxal increases the advanced glycation end-product levels in DRG and contributes to lumbar disk herniation-induced persistent pain

J Neurophysiol. 2017 Aug 1;118(2):1321-1328. doi: 10.1152/jn.00745.2016. Epub 2017 Jun 14.


Lumbar disk herniation (LDH) with discogenic low back pain and sciatica is a common and complicated musculoskeletal disorder. The underlying mechanisms are poorly understood, and there are no effective therapies for LDH-induced pain. In the present study, we found that the patients who suffered from LDH-induced pain had elevated plasma methylglyoxal (MG) levels. In rats, implantation of autologous nucleus pulposus (NP) to the left lumbar 5 spinal nerve root, which mimicked LDH, induced mechanical allodynia, increased MG level in plasma and dorsal root ganglion (DRG), and enhanced the excitability of small DRG neurons (<30 μm in diameter). Intrathecal injection of MG also induced mechanical allodynia, and its application to DRG neurons ex vivo increased the number of action potentials evoked by depolarizing current pulses. Furthermore, inhibition of MG accumulation by aminoguanidine attenuated the enhanced excitability of small DRG neurons and the mechanical allodynia induced by NP implantation. In addition, NP implantation increased levels of advanced glycation end products (AGEs) in DRG, and intrathecal injection of MG-derived AGEs induced the mechanical allodynia and DRG neuronal hyperactivity. Intrathecal injection of MG also significantly increased the expression of AGEs in DRG. Importantly, scavenging of MG by aminoguanidine also attenuated the increase in AGEs induced by NP implantation. These results suggested that LDH-induced MG accumulation contributed to persistent pain by increasing AGE levels. Thus generation of AGEs from MG may represent a target for treatment of LDH-induced pain.NEW & NOTEWORTHY Our study demonstrates that methylglyoxal accumulation via increasing advanced glycation end-product levels in dorsal root ganglion contributes to the persistent pain induced by lumbar disk herniation, which proposed potential targets for the treatment of lumbar disk herniation-induced persistent pain.

Keywords: AGEs; DRG; lumbar disk herniation; methylglyoxal; pain.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Ganglia, Spinal / metabolism*
  • Glycation End Products, Advanced / metabolism*
  • Humans
  • Intervertebral Disc Displacement / complications
  • Intervertebral Disc Displacement / metabolism*
  • Low Back Pain / etiology
  • Low Back Pain / metabolism*
  • Lumbosacral Region / pathology
  • Male
  • Pyruvaldehyde / metabolism*
  • Rats
  • Rats, Sprague-Dawley


  • Glycation End Products, Advanced
  • Pyruvaldehyde