RNA binding protein HuR regulates extracellular matrix gene expression and pH homeostasis independent of controlling HIF-1α signaling in nucleus pulposus cells

Hehai Pan, Adam Strickland, Vedavathi Madhu, Zariel I. Johnson, Saswati N. Chand, Jonathan R. Brody, Andrzej Fertala, Zhaomin Zheng, Irving M. Shapiro, Makarand V. Risbud

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

16 Scopus citations

Abstract

Nucleus pulposus (NP) cells reside in the hypoxic niche of the intervertebral disc. Studies have demonstrated that RNA-binding protein HuR modulates hypoxic signaling in several cancers, however, its function in the disc is unknown. HuR did not show cytoplasmic translocation in hypoxia and its silencing did not alter levels of Hif-1α or HIF-targets in NP cells. RNA-Sequencing data revealed that important extracellular matrix-related genes including several collagens, MMPs, aggrecan, Tgf-β3 and Sdc4 were regulated by HuR. Further analysis of HuR-silenced NP cells confirmed that HuR maintained expression of these matrix genes. We confirmed decreased levels of secreted collagen I and Sdc4 and increased pro-MMP13 in HuR-knockdown cells. In addition, messenger ribonucleoprotein immunoprecipitation demonstrated HuR binding to Tgf-β3 and Sdc4 mRNAs. Interestingly, while HuR bound to Hif-1α and Vegf mRNAs, it was clear that compensatory mechanisms sustained their expression when HuR was silenced. Noteworthy, despite the presence of multiple HuR-binding sites and reported interaction in other cell types, HuR showed no binding to Pgk1, Eno1, Pdk1 and Pfkfb3 in NP cells. Metabolic studies showed a significant decrease in the extracellular acidification rate (ECAR) and mitochondrial oxygen consumption rate (OCR) and acidic pH in HuR-silenced NP cells, without appreciable change in total OCR. These changes were likely due to decreased Ca12 expression in HuR silenced cells. Taken together, our study demonstrates for the first time that HuR regulates extracellular matrix (ECM) and pH homeostasis of NP cells and has important implications in the maintenance of intervertebral disc health.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)23-40
Number of pages18
JournalMatrix Biology
Volume77
DOIs
StatePublished - Apr 2019
Externally publishedYes

Keywords

  • Extracellular matrix (ECM)
  • HIF-1α
  • Human antigen R (HuR)
  • Intervertebral disc
  • Nucleus pulposus

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Molecular Biology

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