Fibroblast Growth Factor 9 Is Upregulated Upon Intervertebral Mechanical Stress-Induced Ligamentum Flavum Hypertrophy in a Rabbit Model

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Study Design.Case-control study of an animal model.Objective.To investigate the factors that are upregulated and potentially related to degenerative changes in the ligamentum flavum (LF) upon mechanical stress concentration.Summary of Background Data.LF hypertrophy is reported to be associated with mechanical stress. However, few studies, using exhaustive analysis with control subjects, on the molecular mechanisms of LF hypertrophy have been published.Methods.Fourteen rabbits were used for this study. The first group underwent L2–3 and L4–5 posterolateral fusion with instrumentation and resection of the L3–4 supraspinal muscle to concentrate the mechanical stress on L3–4, whereas the other group underwent a sham operation. The deep layer of the LF from L2–3 to L4–5 in both groups was harvested after 16 weeks. Gene expression was evaluated exhaustively using DNA microarray and RT-PCR. Fibroblast growth factor 9 (FGF9) protein expression was subsequently examined by immunohistological staining.Results.A total of 680 genes were found to be upregulated upon mechanical stress concentration and downregulated upon mechanical shielding compared with those in the sham group. Functional annotation analysis revealed that these genes not only included those related to the extracellular matrix but also those related to certain FGF families. On RT-PCR validation and immunohistological analysis, we identified that the FGF9 protein increases in the LF upon mechanical stress, especially in the area wherein degenerative changes were frequently identified in the previous literature.Conclusion.FGF9 and its pathway are suggested to contribute to the degenerative changes in the LF following mechanical stress. This finding will be helpful in further understanding the molecular mechanism of human LF degeneration.Level of Evidence: N/A

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