Matrix modification for enhancing the transport properties of the human cartilage endplate to improve disc nutrition

PLoS One. 2019 Apr 10;14(4):e0215218. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0215218. eCollection 2019.


Poor solute transport through the cartilage endplate (CEP) impairs disc nutrition and could be a key factor that limits the success of intradiscal biologic therapies. Here we demonstrate that treating the CEP with matrix metalloproteinase-8 (MMP-8) reduces the matrix constituents that impede solute uptake and thereby improves nutrient diffusion. Human CEP tissues harvested from four fresh cadaveric lumbar spines (age range: 38-66 years old) were treated with MMP-8. Treatment caused a dose-dependent reduction in sGAG, localized reductions to the amount of collagen, and alterations to collagen structure. These matrix modifications corresponded with 16-24% increases in the uptake of a small solute (376 Da). Interestingly, the effects of MMP-8 treatment depended on the extent of non-enzymatic glycation: treated CEPs with high concentrations of advanced glycation end products (AGEs) exhibited the lowest uptake compared to treated CEPs with low concentrations of AGEs. Moreover, AGE concentrations were donor-specific, and the donor tissues with the highest AGE concentrations appeared to have lower uptake than would be expected based on the initial amounts of collagen and sGAG. Finally, increasing solute uptake in the CEP improved cell viability inside diffusion chambers, which supports the nutritional relevance of enhancing the transport properties of the CEP. Taken together, our results provide new insights and in vitro proof-of-concept for a treatment approach that could improve disc nutrition for biologic therapy: specifically, matrix reduction by MMP-8 can enhance solute uptake and nutrient diffusion through the CEP, and AGE concentration appears to be an important, patient-specific factor that influences the efficacy of this approach.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Biological Transport / drug effects
  • Cartilage / cytology
  • Cartilage / drug effects*
  • Cartilage / metabolism*
  • Cell Survival
  • Collagen / metabolism
  • Extracellular Matrix / drug effects
  • Extracellular Matrix / metabolism
  • Humans
  • In Vitro Techniques
  • Intervertebral Disc / drug effects*
  • Intervertebral Disc / metabolism*
  • Intervertebral Disc Degeneration / drug therapy
  • Intervertebral Disc Degeneration / metabolism
  • Matrix Metalloproteinase 8 / metabolism*
  • Matrix Metalloproteinase 8 / pharmacology*
  • Middle Aged
  • Recombinant Proteins / metabolism
  • Recombinant Proteins / pharmacology


  • Recombinant Proteins
  • Collagen
  • MMP8 protein, human
  • Matrix Metalloproteinase 8