Collagenase-I and stromelysin distribution in fresh human herniated intervertebral disc: A possible link to the in vivo inflammatory reactions

Paolo Gaetani, R. R Y Baena, Carmen Riva, Alberto Luca Messina, Flavio Tancioni, Vittorio Grazioli

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Chondrocytes may play an important role in the inflammatory reactions involving intervertebral discs: the role of metalloproteases (MMP) and the imbalance between proteases and their inhibitors seems to play a crucial role in the disc degenerative process. In the present study we have analysed the production of collagenase-1 and stromelysin in different parts of herniated intervertebral discs. Ten samples of herniated lumbar discs were obtained from adult patients operated on for primary microdiscectomy because of persistent radicular symptoms and subdivided into three samples: 1. The nearest to the nerve root in close contact with it, 2. the sample obtained from the intervertebral space, and 3. the sample obtained from the vertebral plates. The DNA content of each specimen was measured in order to obtain the best estimate of the cell content as well as to normalise the content of collagenase-1 and stromelysin found in the same tissues with respect to the number of cells. In 9 out of the 10 cases the-DNA content was significantly higher in samples obtained from the intervertebral plates than in samples obtained near the nerve root or the intervertebral space. DNA content did not show any significant difference considering disc samples contiguous to the nerve root and samples obtained from the intervertebral space. The production of collagenase-1 did not show a specific pattern, being produced in similar quantities in the three disc compartments. The production of stromelysin was significantly lower in disc samples obtained from the intervertebral plates. In conclusion the results of the present study suggest firstly that in the herniated lumbar disc the reactivity and the production of pro-inflammatory agents is independent of DNA content, i.e. the cellularity of the sample, and secondly that activated cells in the intervertebral space and in the part of the disc in contact with the nerve root, even if scarce in number, are able to synthesise a proportionally higher quantity of MMP than the high-cellular disc fragments from the intervertebral plates, potentially playing a specific role in the inflammatory reactions.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)677-681
Number of pages5
JournalNeurological Research
Issue number7
Publication statusPublished - Oct 1999


  • Collagenase
  • Disc herniation
  • Metalloproteases
  • Stromelysin

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Clinical Neurology
  • Neuroscience(all)


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