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Arthritis Rheum. 2010 Sep;62(9):2680-7. doi: 10.1002/art.27577.

Increased friction coefficient and superficial zone protein expression in patients with advanced osteoarthritis.

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  • 1Purdue University, West Lafayette, Indiana 47097-2032, USA.



To quantify the concentration of superficial zone protein (SZP) in the articular cartilage and synovial fluid of patients with advanced osteoarthritis (OA) and to further correlate the SZP content with the friction coefficient, OA severity, and levels of proinflammatory cytokines.


Samples of articular cartilage and synovial fluid were obtained from patients undergoing elective total knee replacement surgery. Additional normal samples were obtained from donated body program and tissue bank sources. Regional SZP expression in cartilage obtained from the femoral condyles was quantified by enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA) and visualized by immunohistochemistry. Friction coefficient measurements of cartilage plugs slid in the boundary lubrication system were obtained. OA severity was graded using histochemical analyses. The concentrations of SZP and proinflammatory cytokines in synovial fluid were determined by ELISA.


A pattern of SZP localization in knee cartilage was identified, with load-bearing regions exhibiting high SZP expression. SZP expression patterns were correlated with friction coefficient and OA severity; however, SZP expression was observed in all samples at the articular surface, regardless of OA severity. SZP expression and aspirate volume of synovial fluid were higher in OA patients than in normal controls. Expression of cytokines was elevated in the synovial fluid of some patients.


Our findings indicate a mechanochemical coupling in which physical forces regulate OA severity and joint lubrication. The findings of this study also suggest that SZP may be ineffective in reducing joint friction in the boundary lubrication mode at an advanced stage of OA, where other mechanisms may dominate the observed tribological behavior.

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