Degeneration of the nucleus pulposus (NP) might serve as a trigger for intervertebral disc degeneration (IDD). A recent drug screening study revealed that the thienoindazole derivative, TD-198946, is a novel drug for the treatment of osteoarthritis. Because of the environmental and functional similarities between articular cartilage and intervertebral disc, TD-198946 is expected to prevent IDD. Herein, we sought to evaluate the effects of TD-198946 on IDD. TD-198946 enhanced glycosaminoglycan (GAG) production and the related genes in mouse NP cells and human NP cells (hNPCs). Further, Kyoto Encyclopedia of Genes and Genomes pathway analysis using the mRNA sequence of hNPCs suggested that the mechanism of action of TD-198946 primarily occurred via the phosphoinositide 3-kinase (PI3K)/Akt signaling pathway. The Akt inhibitor suppressed the enhancement of GAG production induced by TD-198946. The effects of TD-198946 on IDD at two different time points (immediate treatment model, immediately after the puncture; latent treatment model, 2 weeks after the puncture) were investigated using a mouse tail-disc puncture model. At both time points, TD-198946 prevented a loss in disc height. Histological analysis also demonstrated the preservation of the NP structures. TD-198946 exhibited therapeutic effects on IDD by enhancing GAG production via PI3K/Akt signaling.
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