Intervertebral disc (IVD) degeneration is accompanied by elevated levels of pro-inflammatory cytokines, particularly IL-1β and TNF-α [1]. Disc cells from the nucleus pulposus (NPs) respond to cytokine stimulation with increased catabolic breakdown of the tissue, resulting in a positive feedback of disc integrity loss and further inflammation [2]. Previous studies by our group have examined the response of NP cells to Toll-Like Receptor-4 (TLR-4) activation through stimulation with lipopolysaccharide (LPS). TLR-4 is a pattern recognition receptor that is activated in innate immunity and by polysaccharide fragments from degenerated proteoglycans. TLR-4 activation by LPS results in stimulation of multiple cytokines by NP cells [3]. Moreover, we have shown that in vivo LPS injection results in catabolic changes in the IVD, including matrix breakdown, decrease in biomechanical properties and loss of disc height [4]. However, the specific cellular mechanisms for these catabolic changes remain to be elucidated.

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