Boundary lubrication of articular cartilage: Role of synovial fluid constituents

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ObjectiveTo determine whether the synovial fluid (SF) constituents hyaluronan (HA), proteoglycan 4 (PRG4), and surface-active phospholipids (SAPL) contribute to boundary lubrication, either independently or additively, at an articular cartilage–cartilage interface.MethodsCartilage boundary lubrication tests were performed with fresh bovine osteochondral samples. Tests were performed using graded concentrations of SF, HA, and PRG4 alone, a physiologic concentration of SAPL, and various combinations of HA, PRG4, and SAPL at physiologic concentrations. Static (μstatic, Neq) and kinetic (<μkinetic, Neq>) friction coefficients were calculated.ResultsNormal SF functioned as an effective boundary lubricant both at a concentration of 100% (<μkinetic, Neq> = 0.025) and at a 3-fold dilution (<μkinetic, Neq> = 0.029). Both HA and PRG4 contributed independently to a low μ in a dose-dependent manner. Values of <μkinetic, Neq> decreased from ∼0.24 in phosphate buffered saline to 0.12 in 3,300 μg/ml HA and 0.11 in 450 μg/ml PRG4. HA and PRG4 in combination lowered μ further at the high concentrations, attaining a <μkinetic, Neq> value of 0.066. SAPL at 200 μg/ml did not significantly lower μ, either independently or in combination with HA and PRG4.ConclusionThe results described here indicate that SF constituents contribute, individually and in combination, both at physiologic and pathophysiologic concentrations, to the boundary lubrication of apposing articular cartilage surfaces. These results provide insight into the nature of the boundary lubrication of articular cartilage by SF and its constituents. They therefore provide insight regarding both the homeostatic maintenance of healthy joints and pathogenic processes in arthritic disease.

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