Olga Krupkova, Helen Greutert, Norbert Boos, Johannes Lemcke, Thomas Liebscher, Karin Wuertz-Kozak

November 2019, pp 1 - 11 Original Article Read Full Article 10.1007/s00586-019-06227-3

First Online: 22 November 2019

Expression and activity of hyaluronidases HYAL-1, HYAL-2 and HYAL-3 in the human intervertebral disc


Hyaluronic acid plays an essential role in water retention of the intervertebral disc (IVD) and thus provides flexibility and shock absorbance in the spine. Hyaluronic acid gets degraded by hyaluronidases (HYALs), and some of the resulting fragments were previously shown to induce an inflammatory and catabolic response in human IVD cells. However, no data currently exist on the expression and activity of HYALs in IVD health and disease.


Gene expression, protein expression and activity of HYALs were determined in human IVD biopsies with different degrees of degeneration (n = 50 total). Furthermore, freshly isolated human IVD cells (n = 23 total) were stimulated with IL-1β, TNF-α or H2O2, followed by analysis of HYAL-1, HYAL-2 and HYAL-3 gene expression.


Gene expression of HYAL-1 and protein expression of HYAL-2 significantly increased in moderate/severe disc samples when compared to samples with no or low IVD degeneration. HYAL activity was not significantly increased due to high donor–donor variation, but seemed overall higher in the moderate/severe group. An inflammatory environment, as seen during IVD disease, did not affect HYAL-1, HYAL-2 or HYAL-3 expression, whereas exposure to oxidative stress (100 µM H2O2) upregulated HYAL-2 expression relative to untreated controls.


Although HYAL-1, HYAL-2 and HYAL-3 are all expressed in the IVD, HYAL-2 seems to have the highest pathophysiological relevance. Nonetheless, further studies will be needed to comprehensively elucidate its significance and to determine its potential as a therapeutic target.

Graphic abstract

These slides can be retrieved under Electronic Supplementary Material. [Figure not available: see fulltext.]

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