The Piezo1 protein ion channel functions in human nucleus pulposus cell apoptosis by regulating mitochondrial dysfunction and the endoplasmic reticulum stress signal pathway

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The Piezo1 protein ion channel is a novel mechanical stretch-activated ion channel (SAC) closely related to mechanical signals. Mechanotransduction plays a crucial role in organ development and homeostasis. Previous studies identified Piezo1 and demonstrated that it is distinct from other ion channels with well-established roles in lower organisms. Mechanical stretch-activated ion channels from other organisms are not conserved in mammals or do not act as mechanically activated channels in mammals. In the current study, we explored the role of the Piezo1 ion channel in human nucleus pulposus cell (NP cell) apoptosis through mechanical force-induced mitochondrial dysfunction and endoplasmic reticulum stress. Reverse Transcription Polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR), immunofluorescence, immunohistochemistry and Annexin V binding and propidium iodide analyses revealed that the Piezo1 protein ion channel was highly expressed in human NP cells, which are the primary cells that comprise the intervertebral disc. In patients with intervertebral disc degeneration (IVDD), the Piezo1 protein may play a crucial role in human NP cell apoptosis through mitochondrial dysfunction and endoplasmic reticulum stress under abnormal loading conditions. This study also verified that human NP cells have an intimate connection with the cytoskeleton upon treatment of the cells with the Piezo1 blocking peptide GsMTx4 from tarantula venom. In summary, Piezo1 functions in human NP cell apoptosis, which may be one underlying mechanism of apoptosis induced by abnormal loading in IVDD patients.

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