Modulation of Lubricin Biosynthesis and Tissue Surface Properties Following Cartilage Mechanical Injury

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To evaluate the effects of injurious compression on the biosynthesis of lubricin at different depths within articular cartilage and to examine alterations in structure and function of the articular surface following mechanical injury.


Bovine cartilage explants were subdivided into level 1, with intact articular surface, and level 2, containing middle and deep zone cartilage. Following mechanical injury, lubricin messenger RNA (mRNA) levels were monitored by quantitative reverse transcriptase–polymerase chain reaction, and soluble or cartilage-associated lubricin protein was analyzed by Western blotting and immunohistochemistry. Cartilage morphology was assessed by histologic staining, and tissue functionality was assessed by friction testing.


Two days after injury, lubricin mRNA expression was up-regulated ∼3-fold for level 1 explants and was down-regulated for level 2 explants. Lubricin expression in level 1 cartilage returned to control levels after 6 days in culture. Similarly, lubricin protein synthesis and secretion increased in response to injury for level 1 explants and decreased for level 2 cartilage. Histologic staining revealed changes in the articular surface of level 1 explants following injury, with respect to glycosaminoglycan and collagen content. Injured level 1 explants displayed an increased coefficient of friction relative to controls.


Our findings indicate that increased lubricin biosynthesis appears to be an early transient response of surface-layer cartilage to injurious compression. However, distinct morphologic changes occur with injury that appear to compromise the frictional properties of the tissue.

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