Intervertebral disc degeneration (IDD) is a major cause of low back pain (LBP), and effective therapies are still lacking. Previous studies reported that mitochondrial dysfunction contributes to apoptosis, and urolithin A (UA) specifically induces mitophagy. Herein, we aimed to investigate the protective effect of UA-induced mitophagy on tert-butyl hydroperoxide (TBHP)-induced apoptosis in nucleus pulposus (NP) cells in vitro and a rat model of IDD in vivo. Mitochondrial function, apoptosis, and mitophagy were measured in UA-treated NP cells by western blotting and immunofluorescence; the therapeutic effects of UA on IDD were assessed in rats with puncture-induced IDD. The results showed that UA could activate mitophagy in primary NP cells, and UA treatment inhibited TBHP-induced mitochondrial dysfunction and the intrinsic apoptosis pathway. Mechanistically, we revealed that UA promoted mitophagy by activating AMPK signaling in TBHP-induced NP cells. In vivo, UA was shown to effectively alleviate the progression of puncture-induced IDD in rats. Taken together, our results suggest that UA could be a novel and effective therapeutic strategy for IDD.
Copyright © 2020. Published by Elsevier Inc.