Clinics (Sao Paulo). 2011 May; 66(5): 903-909.

Copyright © 2011 Hospital das Clínicas da FMUSP

Heparanase isoform expression and extracellular matrix remodeling in intervertebral disc degenerative disease

Luciano Miller Reis Rodrigues I , Thérèse Rachell Theodoro II , Leandro Luongo Matos II , Ana Maria Mader III , Carlo Milani I , Maria Aparecida da Silva Pinhal II

Orthopedic Department, Faculdade de Medicina ABC, Santo André São Paulo -Brazil.

Biochemistry Department, Faculdade de Medicina ABC, Santo André São Paulo -Brazil.

Pathology Department, Faculdade de Medicina ABC, Santo André São Paulo -Brazil.

E-mail: Tel.: 55 11 4083-6852

received February 9, 2011; revised February 14, 2011; accepted March 25, 2011.



To determine the molecules involved in extracellular matrix remodeling and to identify and quantify heparanase isoforms present in herniated and degenerative discs.


Heparanase is an endo-beta-glucuronidase that specifically acts upon the heparan sulfate chains of proteoglycans. However, heparanase expression in degenerative intervertebral discs has not yet been evaluated. Notably, previous studies demonstrated a correlation between changes in the heparan sulfate proteoglycan pattern and the degenerative process associated with intervertebral discs.


Twenty-nine samples of intervertebral degenerative discs, 23 samples of herniated discs and 12 samples of non-degenerative discs were analyzed. The expression of both heparanase isoforms (heparanase-1 and heparanase-2) was evaluated using immunohistochemistry and real-time RT-PCR analysis.


Heparanase-1 and heparanase-2 expression levels were significantly higher in the herniated and degenerative discs in comparison to the control tissues, suggesting a possible role of these proteins in the intervertebral degenerative process.


The overexpression of heparanase isoforms in the degenerative intervertebral discs and the herniated discs suggests a potential role of both proteins in the mediation of inflammatory processes and in extracellular matrix remodeling. The heparanase-2 isoform may be involved in normal metabolic processes, as evidenced by its higher expression in the control intervertebral discs relative to the expression of heparanase-1.

Keywords: Intervertebral degeneration, Herniated disc, Heparanase, Extracellular matrix, Proteoglycan

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