Presence and distribution of the lubricating protein, lubricin, in the meibomian gland in rabbits

Mol Vis. 2011;17:3055-61. Epub 2011 Nov 23.


Purpose: Lubricin is a principal boundary lubricating and anti-adhesion protein found in synovial fluid and several musculoskeletal tissues. This study investigates the presence of lubricin in the meibomian gland, lacrimal gland and ocular surface of healthy rabbits; prompted by the hypothesis that lubricin acts as boundary lubricant and anti-adhesive protein in the eye.

Methods: Thirty six eyelids were resected from ten cadaveric New Zealand White rabbits and two eyeballs and two lacrimal glands from two of them. Thirty two samples from 8 animals were processed for immunohistochemical localization of lubricin using a purified monoclonal antibody and quantification of the lubricin-containing meibocytes. Confirmatory western blot analysis was performed on four eyelids from 2 animals.

Results: Lubricin-positive meibomian cells were seen in the glands in all eight animals evaluated immunohistochemically. The percentage of lubricin-positive cells ranged from was 8%-50% in the upper and 3%-50% in the lower eyelid, with no significant difference between the upper and lower eyelid. Western blot analysis confirmed the presence of lubricin ranging from 10 to 40 ng in four eyelids from the other two rabbits. Occasional staining was seen in the epithelium of the hair follicles of the eyelid. No lubricin was evident on the ocular surface or in the lacrimal gland.

Conclusions: Lubricin is secreted by the meibomian gland. The results provide a basis for the hypothesis that lubricin plays a role in boundary lubrication and in preventing adhesions in the eye, as well as in contributing to other functions of the meibomian gland. Moreover, if lubricin functions to decrease the friction between the eyelid and ocular surface, this study provides a rationale to supplement the amount of lubricin in cases of compromised meibomian gland function and other conditions.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Blotting, Western
  • Female
  • Glycoproteins / biosynthesis*
  • Glycoproteins / metabolism
  • Immunohistochemistry
  • Lacrimal Apparatus / physiology
  • Male
  • Meibomian Glands / metabolism*
  • Rabbits
  • Synovial Fluid / physiology


  • Glycoproteins
  • lubricin