Potassium channels play a major role in intracellular homeostasis and regulation of cell volume. Intervertebral
disc cells respond to mechanical loading in a complex manner. Mechanical loading may play a role in disc degeneration.
Lumbar intervertebral disc samples from 5 patients (average age: 47 years, range: 25-64 years) were used for this study,
investigating cells from the nucleus pulposus and the annulus fibrosus duplicate samples to determine RNA expression
and protein expression. Analysis of mRNA expression by RT-PCR demonstrated that TREK 1 was expressed by nucleus
pulposus (n=5) and annulus fibrosus (n=5) cells. Currently, TREK-1 is the only potassium channel known to be activated
by intracellular acidosis, and responds to mechanical and chemical stimuli. Whilst the precise role of potassium channels
in cellular homeostasis remains to be determined, TREK-1 may be important to protect disc cells against ischaemic damage,
and subsequent disc degeneration, and may also play a role in effecting mechanotransduction. Further research is required
to fully elucidate the role of the TREK-1 ion channel in intervertebral disc cells.
Keywords: Annulus fibrosus, intervertebral disc, mechanotransduction, nucleus pulposus, potassium channel, TREK-1, disc degeneration, RNA, mechanical loading, intracellular homeostasis
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