Archives of Orthopaedic and Trauma Surgery

, Volume 114, Issue 3, pp 145–152 | Cite as

Evaluation of digestive proteinases from the Antarctic krill Euphasia superba as potential chemonucleolytic agents

In vitro and in vivo studies
  • J. Melrose
  • A. Hall
  • C. Macpherson
  • C. R. Bellenger
  • P. Ghosh
Original Article


Chemonucleolysis is a therapeutic procedure whereby a degradative enzyme is injected intradiscally to reduce disc height/width by depolymerisation of extracellular matrix components. This process is considered to diminish disc pressure on inflamed nerve roots, resulting in the alleviation of sciatic pain. In the present study two krill (Euphasia superba) enzyme preparations, a proteinase and an esterase preparation, were evaluated for their potential as chemonucleolytic agents. Initially, their ability to degrade several protein (azocoll, casein, proteoglycans, PGs) and peptide (CBZ-arg-4-nitroanilide, CBZ-lys-thiobenzyl ester) substrates was assessed in vitro. The krill proteinase preparation rapidly converted azocoll, casein and PGs to small peptides. Furthermore, when this degradative enzyme preparation was evaluated in vivo, a relatively low intradiscal dose (0.54 mg/disc) was found to reduce intervertebral disc widths in beagles to 48% ± 10.5% (mean ± SEM) of their pre-injection values within 2 weeks of administration. Moreover, the discs injected with this proteinase had reconstituted up to 80% ± 9% (mean ± SEM) of their pre-injection widths at the termination of the experiment (32 weeks). These data suggest that the krill protease preparation has potential as a chemonucleolytic agent which would allow disc matrix reconstitution. Conversely, the krill esterase preparation also degraded PGs, but into relatively large fragments. This limited digestion of PGs indicates that the krill esterase would be a less effective chemonucleolytic agent than the corresponding proteinase.


Nerve Root Intervertebral Disc Enzyme Preparation Degradative Enzyme Small Peptide 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 1995

Authors and Affiliations

  • J. Melrose
    • 1
  • A. Hall
    • 1
  • C. Macpherson
    • 2
  • C. R. Bellenger
    • 2
  • P. Ghosh
    • 1
  1. 1.Raymond Purves Bone and Joint Research LaboratoriesThe University of Sydney and Royal North Shore HospitalSydneyAustralia
  2. 2.Department of Clinical Veterinary SciencesThe University of SydneySydneyAustralia

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