Scutellarin-mediated autophagy activates exosome release of rat nucleus pulposus cells by positively regulating Rab8a via the PI3K/PTEN/Akt pathway

Cell Biol Int. 2022 Jun 28. doi: 10.1002/cbin.11838. Online ahead of print.


To provide a basis for promising exosome-based therapies against intervertebral disc degeneration (IDD), our present research aimed to identify a mechanism underlying the vesicle release from nucleus pulposus cells (NPCs). Scutellarin (SC) is a natural chemotherapeutic agent isolated from Erigeron breviscapus with a variety of biological activities. Here, we observed the significantly elevated autophagy levels in rat NPCs under the stimulation of SC, leading to a concomitant enhancement of intracellular vesicle release, which could be attributed to the inactivation of the phosphoinositide 3-kinase (PI3K)/phosphatase and tensin homolog (PTEN)/protein kinase B (Akt) pathway. To ensure that exosome release was driven by SC via the autophagic pathway, we implemented gain-of-function and loss-of-function studies by additionally using insulin-like growth factor-1 (IGF-1) and small-interfering RNA of autophagy-related gene 5 (ATG5), and the exosome secretion decreased in the case of attenuated autophagy. Evidently, the treatment with SC exerted the remarkable upregulation of Rab8a through the overexpression of ATG5. After the respective knockdown of ATG5 and Rab8a, the increased release of exosomes induced by SC was reversed, whereas the number of intracellular vesicles was restored. Overall, it can be concluded that SC contributes to the autophagy activation in NPCs by acting on the PI3K/PTEN/Akt pathway, which upregulates the expression of Rab8a and promotes the release of exosomes, inspiring novel therapeutic strategies in preventing IDD that might be fruitfully investigated.

Keywords: Rab8a; autophagy-related gene; intervertebral disc degeneration; scutellarin; vesicle.