Deakin University

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Molecular aspects of boundary lubrication by human lubricin : effect of disulfide bonds and enzymatic digestion

journal contribution
posted on 2008-02-19, 00:00 authored by B Zappone, Wren Greene, E Oroudjev, G Jay, J Israelachvili
Lubricin (LUB) is a glycoprotein of the synovial cavity of human articular joints, where it serves as an antiadhesive, boundary lubricant, and regulating factor for the cartilage surface. It has been proposed that these properties are related to the presence of a long, extended, heavily glycosylated and highly hydrated mucinous domain in the central part of the LUB molecule. In this work, we show that LUB has a contour length of 220 ± 30 nm and a persistence length of ≤10 nm. LUB molecules aggregate in oligomers where the protein extremities are linked by disulfide bonds. We have studied the effect of proteolytic digestion by chymotrypsin and removal of the disulfide bonds, both of which mainly affect the N− and C− terminals of the protein, on the adsorption, normal forces, friction (lubrication) forces, and wear of LUB layers adsorbed on smooth, negatively charged mica surfaces, where the protein naturally forms lubricating polymer brush-like layers. After in situ digestion, the surface coverage was drastically reduced, the normal forces were altered, and both the coefficient of friction and the wear were dramatically increased (the COF increased to μ = 1.1−1.9), indicating that the mucinous domain was removed from the surface. Removal of disulfide bonds did not change the surface coverage or the overall features of the normal forces; however, we find an increase in the friction coefficient from μ = 0.02−0.04 to μ = 0.13−1.17 in the pressure regime below 6 atm, which we attribute to a higher affinity of the protein terminals for the surface. The necessary condition for LUB to be a good lubricant is that the protein be adsorbed to the surface via its terminals, leaving the central mucin domain free to form a low-friction, surface-protecting layer. Our results suggest that this “end-anchoring” has to be strong enough to impart the layer a sufficient resistance to shear, but without excessively restricting the conformational freedom of the adsorbed proteins.









1495 - 1508


American Chemical Society


Washington, D. C.







Publication classification

C1.1 Refereed article in a scholarly journal