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Open Access Research article

Increasing substance P levels in serum and synovial tissues from patients with developmental dysplasia of the hip (DDH)

Hui Wang, Xin-Feng Zheng, Xiang Zhang, Zheng Li, Chao Shen, Jun-Feng Zhu, Yi-Min Cui and Xiao-Dong Chen*

  • * Corresponding author: Xiao-Dong Chen

  • † Equal contributors

Author Affiliations

Department of Orthopaedic Surgery, Xinhua Hospital, Shanghai Jiaotong University School of Medicine, Kongjiang Road, No.1665, Yangpu District, Shanghai, China

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BMC Musculoskeletal Disorders 2014, 15:92  doi:10.1186/1471-2474-15-92

Published: 19 March 2014



The tachykininergic neurotransmitters have been proved to be involved in the inflammatory progress and chronic pain in series of disease. The present study was undertaken to evaluate the levels of substance P (SP) and its receptors NK-1 receptor (NK-1R) in both serum and synovial tissues of hip joint from patients with different stages of DDH, and to detect the possible correlation of serum SP levels with pain sensation and dysfunction of the hip joint.


SP levels in serum and synovial tissues from patients with DDH and DDH combined with osteoarthritis (DDH&OA) group were compared through immunohistochemistry (IHC), ELISA, and 2-step acetic acid extraction method respectively. Expression of NK-1R in synovial tissues was compared through IHC, quantitive Real-Time PCR (QRT-PCR) and Western-Blot. The severities of pain sensation and the functional activities of hip joint were assessed by Visual analogue scale (VAS) and Harris hip score (HHS). Correlations of serum SP levels with VAS, HHS and erythrocyte sedimentation rate (ESR) were evaluated respectively in these groups.


Significantly elevated serum SP levels were detected in group of DDH and DDH&OA compared to that in normal group. IHC, QRT-PCR as well as tissue Elisa showed that SP levels in synovial tissue of DDH&OA group is stronger than that in DDH group. Serum SP levels in each group have no gender differences. The enhanced SP levels in synovial tissue mainly came from the segregation of peripheral nerve endings. Serum SP correlated with VAS and HHS in patients with DDH&OA (Male + Female). Serum SP correlated with HHS in patients with DDH (Male). Serum SP levels also correlated with erythrocyte sedimentation rate (ESR) in patients with DDH&OA (Male + Female). Up-regulated expression of NK-1R was also observed in synovial tissue of patients with DDH&OA compared to patients with DDH, through western-blot, IHC, and QRT-PCR.


These findings indicated that the increasing SP levels in serum and synovial tissues, observed from patients with DDH to patients with DDH&OA, might associate with the loss of function and chronic pain sensation in hip joint. SP along with its receptors NK-1R might be involved in the progression of DDH into DDH&OA. In the future, inhibitors of SP as well as NK-1R may represent a novel pharmacotherapy target for pain relieving, inflammation alleviating and joint degeneration delaying for patients with DDH.

Substance P; DDH; Synovium; NK-1 receptor; Chronic pain; Osteoarthritis