Nucleus pulposus

The nucleus pulposus (plural: nuclei pulposi) is the central part of each intervertebral disc.

It is located within the annulus fibrosus and between the vertebral body endplates. It is composed of a thin lattice of collagen fibers (type II) which traverse though hydrophilic glycosaminoglycans (GAGs - chondroitin sulfate, dermatan sulfate and keratan sulfate). The glycosaminoglycans (chains) are covalently attached to a core-protein to form a polypeptide: proteoglycan.

With aging and degeneration the glycosaminoglycans are replaced with fibrocartilage and the collagen type II replaced with type I (same as the annulus fibrosus).

Disc desiccation is not responsible for disc height loss, as the nucleus pulposus volume remains the same with aging, but rather due to annular bulging and end plate bowing. 

  • none: it receives nutrition via diffusion across the vertebral body endplates
  • none: waste passes via diffusion across the vertebral body endplates
  • none
  • high content of water which gives a normal disc its characteristic high T2 signal on MRI
  • loss of high T2 signal is due to disc desiccation
Anatomy: Spine
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Article information

rID: 6112
Section: Anatomy
Synonyms or Alternate Spellings:

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