Fibronectin Fragments and the Cleaving Enzyme ADAM-8 in the Degenerative Human Intervertebral Disc

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Study Design.

The presence of fibronectin fragments (FN-fs) and the cleaving enzyme, A disintegrin and metalloproteinase domain-containing protein (ADAM)-8 were examined in human intervertebral disc (IVD) tissue in vitro.


To investigate the presence and pathophysiological concentration of FN-fs and their cleaving enzyme, ADAM-8, in the human IVD tissue.

Summary of Background Data.

The 29-kDa FN-f has been shown to result in extracellular matrix loss in rabbit IVDs. However, the concentration of this biologically active fragment in the degenerative human IVD tissue has previously not been determined. Furthermore, it is critical to identify the enzyme(s) responsible for FN cleavage in the IVD.


Human degenerative IVD tissues were removed during spinal surgery. A normal seeming young adult and an infant human cadaveric sample were obtained as controls. Soluble proteins were extracted, and analyzed by Western blotting using antibodies specific for the human FN neoepitope VRAA271. A purified 29-kDa FN-f was used to allow estimation of the concentration of FN-fs in the tissues. ADAM-8, a FN-cleaving enzyme, was analyzed by Western blotting and immunostaining.


All adult IVD tissues contain many FN-f species, but these species were absent from the infant disc tissue. Moderately degenerative discs contained the highest amount of FN-fs; the concentration was estimated to be in the nanomolar range per gram of tissue. ADAM-8, known to cleave FN resulting in the VRAA271 neoepitope, was present in the human disc. ADAM-8 primarily localized in the pericellular matrix of the nucleus pulposus tissue, as determined by immunostaining.


This is the first report that N-terminal FN-fs are consistently present in IVD tissues from adult subjects. The pathophysiological concentration of these fragments is estimated to be at nanomolar range per gram of IVD tissue. Furthermore, ADAM-8, known to cleave FN, is present at the pericellular matrix of disc cells.


Level of Evidence: N/A

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