Expression of the two pore domain potassium channel TREK-1 in human intervertebral disc cells.
Sharma P., Hughes S., El Haj A., Maffulli N.
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.