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Hyaluronan, lubricin and phospholipids, molecules ubiquitous in synovial joints, such as hips and knees, have separately been invoked as the lubricants responsible for the remarkable lubrication of articular cartilage; but alone, these molecules cannot explain the extremely low friction at the high pressures of such joints. We find that surface-anchored hyaluronan molecules complex synergistically with phosphatidylcholine lipids present in joints to form a boundary lubricating layer, which, with coefficient of friction μ≈0.001 at pressures to over 100 atm, has a frictional behaviour resembling that of articular cartilage in the major joints. Our findings point to a scenario where each of the molecules has a different role but must act together with the others: hyaluronan, anchored at the outer surface of articular cartilage by lubricin molecules, complexes with joint phosphatidylcholines to provide the extreme lubrication of synovial joints via the hydration-lubrication mechanism.

Original publication

DOI

10.1038/ncomms7497

Type

Journal article

Journal

Nat Commun

Publication Date

10/03/2015

Volume

6

Keywords

Aluminum Silicates, Biotinylation, Cartilage, Articular, Friction, Glycoproteins, Humans, Hyaluronic Acid, Joints, Liposomes, Models, Chemical, Phosphatidylcholines, Pressure, Stress, Mechanical, Surface Properties, Synovial Fluid