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This article is the author’s final published version in Scientific Reports, Volume 9, Issue 1, October 2019, Article number 15469.

The published version is available at Copyright © Choi et al.


The nucleus pulposus (NP) cells adapt to their physiologically hyperosmotic microenvironment through Tonicity-responsive enhancer binding protein (TonEBP/nuclear factor of activated T-cell5 [NFAT5])-mediated osmoregulation. Primary cilia in different organs serve diverse roles including osmosensing, but its contribution to NP cell osmoadaptive response is unknown. A high percentage of cultured primary NP cells possessed primary cilia that changed length in response to osmotic stimuli. Stable silencing of Intraflagellar Transport 88 (Ift88) or Kinesin Family Member 3 A (Kif3a) to inhibit the formation of primary cilia did not affect hyperosmotic upregulation of TonEBP. While ShKif3a blocked hyperosmotic increase of TonEBP-Transactivation Domain (TAD) activity, overall the knockdown of either gene did not alter the hyperosmotic status of proximal promoter activities and transcription of key TonEBP targets. On the other hand, a small decrease in TonEBP level under hypoosmotic condition was attenuated by Ift88 or Kif3a knockdown. Noteworthy, none of the TonEBP target genes were responsive to hypoosmotic stimulus in control and Ift88 or Kif3a knockdown cells, suggesting the primary role of TonEBP in the hyperosmotic adaptation of NP cells. Similarly, in Kif3a null mouse embryonic fibroblasts (MEFs), the overall TonEBP-dependent hyperosmotic responses were preserved. Unlike NP cells, TonEBP targets were responsive to hypoosmolarity in wild-type MEFs, and these responses remained intact in Kif3a null MEFs. Together, these results suggest that primary cilia are dispensable for TonEBP-dependent osmoadaptive response.

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