Unfolded protein response alleviates acid-induced premature senescence by promoting autophagy in nucleus pulposus cells

Cell Biol Int. 2022 Apr;46(4):568-578. doi: 10.1002/cbin.11751. Epub 2022 Jan 12.


Acid-induced cellular senescence is a critical underlying mechanism of intervertebral disc (IVD) degeneration (IDD). Acid stimulation activates a variety of biological changes including autophagy, endoplasmic reticulum stress, and related unfolded protein response (UPR), which are important regulators of cellular senescence. However, the precise mechanism of acid-mediated UPR and autophagy in nucleus pulposus cell (NPC) senescence has not been fully elucidated. In this study, we used acid to mimic the acidic microenvironment of IVD, and rat NPCs were cultured with or without autophagy or UPR signaling small-interfering RNAs. The related proteins and genes were assessed by immunofluorescence staining assay, Western blot analyses, and quantitative real-time polymerase chain reaction to monitor the activation of these signals and classify the molecular mechanisms underlying the correlation between autophagy and UPR pathway. Cell cycle analyses, senescence-associated β-galactosidase staining, gene expression, and immunoblotting analyses were performed to observe NPC senescence. Results showed that acid stimulation not only induced NPC senescence, but also initiated UPR and autophagy. Silencing the binding immunoglobulin protein signaling of UPR or autophagy signaling promoted rat NPC senescence. Knock-down of the UPR also blocked NPC autophagy. Taken together, UPR inhibits NPC senescence under acidic condition by activating autophagy. Hence, UPR-dependent autophagy could be an effective biologic target for the treatment of IDD in the future.

Keywords: acid; binding immunoglobulin protein; endoplasmic reticulum stress; intervertebral disc degeneration; senescence.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Autophagy
  • Cellular Senescence
  • Endoplasmic Reticulum Stress
  • Intervertebral Disc Degeneration* / metabolism
  • Nucleus Pulposus* / metabolism
  • Rats
  • Unfolded Protein Response