Inactivation of FAM20B causes cell fate changes in annulus fibrosus of mouse intervertebral disc and disc defects via the alterations of TGF- and MAPK signaling pathways.
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Intervertebral disc (IVD) disorder is often caused by the defect of annulus fibrosus (AF), especially that of the outer AF. Studies about the mechanisms governing the development of the outer AF are needed for a better understanding of pathogenesis of IVD defects. Glycosaminoglycans (GAGs) are essential components of extracellular matrix (ECM) in AF. FAM20B is a newly identified xylose kinase that catalyzes the biosynthesis of GAGs. In this study, we created Fam20B conditional knockout (cKO) mice in which FAM20B was inactivated in type I collagen-expressing cells, the main type of cells in the outer AF of IVD. The cKO mice showed severe spine deformity and remarkable IVD defects associated with AF malformation. The AF of cKO mice had a lower level of chondroitin sulfate and heparan sulfate, and the outer AF cells lost their normal fibroblast-like morphology and acquired chondrocyte phenotypes, expressing a higher level of Sox 9 and type II collagen along with a reduced level of type I collagen. The level of phospho-Smad 2 and phospho-Smad 3, and that of scleraxis, a downstream target molecule of canonical TGF- signaling pathway were significantly lower in the AF of cKO mice. The AF in cKO mice also manifested altered levels in the molecules associated with the activations of MAPK pathway; the changes included the increase of phospho-P38 and phospho-ERK and a decrease of phospho-JNK. These results indicate that FAM20B plays an essential role in the development of AF by regulating the TGF- signaling and MAPK signaling pathways.