Lubricin is a large, multifunctional glycoprotein that is known to play a role as a boundary lubricant in diarthrodial joint articulation. The hypothesis of this study was that lubricin is present in the intervertebral disc in a distribution consistent with serving to facilitate interlamellar tribology. The objectives were to: (1) determine the distribution of lubricin in the normal caprine disc; and (2) investigate the synthesis of lubricin by caprine annulus fibrosus (AF) and nucleus pulposus (NP) cells in vitro, using immunohistochemical methods. Caprine lumbar intervertebral discs from five levels and four animals were studied. Positive staining revealed the presence of the lubricin in the outer AF of nearly all samples. No staining was present in the inner AF or the NP. Within the outer AF, lubricin was prominent in the layers separating lamellae and in the extracellular matrix of the lamellae. Some of the AF cells within the lubricin-positive regions demonstrated intracellular lubricin staining, suggesting that these cells may be synthesizing the lubricin protein observed. Immunohistochemistry performed on monolayer cultures of primary AF and NP cells demonstrated intracellular lubricin staining in both cell types. Thus, lubricin is selectively present in the outer caprine intervertebral disc AF, and its distribution suggests that it may play a role in interlamellar tribology. Cells from both the annulus and nucleus were found capable of synthesizing lubricin in vitro, suggesting that these cells may be a potential source of the glycoprotein under some conditions.
(c) 2008 Orthopaedic Research Society.