Robust cellular bioenergetics is vital in the energy-demanding process of maintaining matrix homeostasis in the intervertebral disc. Age-related decline in disc cellular bioenergetics is hypothesised to contribute to the matrix homeostatic perturbation observed in intervertebral disc degeneration. The present study aimed to measure how ageing impacted disc cell mitochondria and bioenergetics. Age-related changes measured included matrix content and cellularity in disc tissue, as well as matrix synthesis, cell proliferation and senescence markers in cell cultures derived from annulus fibrosus (AF) and nucleus pulposus (NP) isolated from the discs of young (6-9 months) and older (36-50 months) New Zealand White rabbits. Cellular bioenergetic parameters were measured using a Seahorse XFe96 Analyzer, in addition to quantitating mitochondrial morphological changes and membrane potential. Ageing reduced mitochondrial number and membrane potential in both cell types. Also, it significantly reduced glycolytic capacity, mitochondrial reserve capacity, maximum aerobic capacity and non-glucose-dependent respiration in NP. Moreover, NP cells exhibited age-related decline in matrix synthesis and reduced cellularity in older tissues. Despite a lack of changes in mitochondrial respiration with age, AF cells showed an increase in glycolysis and altered matrix production. While previous studies report age-related matrix degenerative changes in disc cells, the present study revealed, for the first time, that ageing affected mitochondrial number and function, particularly in NP cells. Consequently, age-related bioenergetic changes may contribute to the functional alterations in aged NP cells that underlie disc degeneration.
Bibliographical noteFunding Information:
The authors gratefully acknowledge the following funding sources that enabled the success of this project: the National Institute of Health (AG044376; 1S10OD019973-01; P01AG043376).
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