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Fibrosis is one of the main pathologies caused by hypertrophy of the ligamentum flavum (LF), which leads to lumbar spinal stenosis (LSS). The fibroblast growth factor (FGF) family is a key mediator of fibrosis. However, acidic fibroblast growth factor (FGF-1) expression and function are not well understood in LF. This study sought to evaluate FGF-1 expression in the hypertrophied and non-hypertrophied human LF, and to investigate its function using primary human LF cell cultures. We obtained hypertrophied lumbar LF from LSS patients and non-hypertrophied lumbar LF from control patients during surgery. Immunohistochemistry and qPCR were performed to evaluate FGF-1 expression in LF tissue. The function of FGF-1 and transforming growth factor beta 1 (TGF-β1) was also investigated using primary LF cell culture. The effects on cell morphology and cell proliferation were examined using a crystal violet staining assay and MTT assay, respectively. Immunocytochemistry, western blotting, and qPCR were performed to evaluate the effect of FGF-1 on TGF-β1-induced myofibroblast differentiation and fibrosis. Immunohistochemistry and qPCR showed higher FGF-1 expression in hypertrophied LF compared to control LF. Crystal violet staining and MTT assay revealed that FGF-1 decreases LF cell size and inhibits their proliferation in a dose-dependent manner, whereas TGF-β1 increases cell size and promotes proliferation. Immunocytochemistry and western blotting further demonstrated that TGF-β1 increases, while FGF-1 decreases, α-SMA expression in LF cells. Moreover, FGF-1 also caused downregulation of collagen type 1 and type 3 expression in LF cells. FGF-1 is highly upregulated in the LF of LSS patients. Meanwhile, in vitro, FGF-1 exhibits antagonistic effects to TGF-β1 by inhibiting cell proliferation and decreasing LF cell size as well as the expression of fibrosis markers. These results suggest that FGF-1 has an anti-fibrotic role in the pathophysiology of LF hypertrophy. Copyright © 2021 The Japanese Orthopaedic Association. Published by Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.


Hasibullah Habibi, Akinobu Suzuki, Kazunori Hayashi, Hamidullah Salimi, Yusuke Hori, Kumi Orita, Akito Yabu, Hidetomi Terai, Hiroaki Nakamura. Expression and function of fibroblast growth factor 1 in the hypertrophied ligamentum flavum of lumbar spinal stenosis. Journal of orthopaedic science : official journal of the Japanese Orthopaedic Association. 2022 Mar;27(2):299-307

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PMID: 33637374

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