The objective of this study was to investigate the role of lubricin in the lubrication of tendon fascicles. Lubricin, a glycoprotein, lubricates cartilage and tendon surfaces, but the function of lubricin within the tendon fascicle is unclear. We developed a novel method to assess the gliding resistance of a single fascicle in a mouse tail model and used it to test the hypothesis that gliding resistance would be increased in lubricin knockout mice. Thirty-six mouse tails were used from 12 wild type, 12 heterozygous, and 12 lubricin knockout mice. A 15 mm long fascicle segment was pulled proximally after being divided distally. The peak resistance during fascicle pullout and the fascicle perimeter were measured. Lubricin expression was evaluated by immunohistochemistry. The peak gliding resistance in the lubricin knockout mice was significantly higher than in the wild type (p < 0.05). Fascicles from heterozygous mice were intermediate in value, but not significantly different from either wild type or lubricin knockout fascicles in peak gliding resistance. No significant difference was found in fascicle perimeter among the three groups. No correlation was observed between fascicle perimeter and gliding resistance. While lubricin was detected by immunostaining on the fascicle surface in wild type and heterozygous mice, lubricin was not detectable in the tendons of knockout mice. We conclude that the absence of lubricin is associated with increased interfascicular friction and that lubricin may play an important role in interfascicular lubrication.
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