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Open Access Open Badges Research article

Intensity-dependent effect of treadmill running on lubricin metabolism of rat articular cartilage

Guo-Xin Ni1*, Lei Lei2 and Yue-Zhu Zhou3

Author affiliations

1 Department of Orthopaedics and Traumatology, Nanfang Hospital, Southern Medical University, 1838 Guangzhou Avenue (N), Guangzhou 510515, China

2 Department of Rehabilitation Medicine, Longyan People's Hospital, 31 Denggao Road (W), Longyan 364000, China

3 Department of Rehabilitation, 1st Affiliated Hospital, Fujian Medical University, 20 Chazhong Road, Fuzhou 350005, China

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Citation and License

Arthritis Research & Therapy 2012, 14:R256  doi:10.1186/ar4101

Published: 24 November 2012



We aimed to understand the changes in cartilage lubricin expression and immunolocalisation in responsed to treadmill running with different intensities in a rat model.


A total of 24 male Wistar rats were randomly assigned into groups of control (CON), low-intensity running (LIR), moderate-intensity running (MIR), and high-intensity running (HIR). Rats in LIR, MIR, and HIR groups were trained for 8 weeks on the treadmill with low, moderate, and high intensity, respectively. After sacrifice, femoral condyles were collected to take histological observation for cartilage characteristics, and immunohistochemistry for lubricin. In addition, cartilage samples were obtained to assess PRG4 and TGF-β mRNA expression by quantitative RT-PCR.


Histological examination showed osteoarthritic changes in rats after eight weeks of high intensity running. In comparison to CON group, significantly lower Mankin score was found in LIR and MIR groups, whereas, HIR group had significantly higher Mankin score than either CON, LIR, or MIR group. On the other hand, both LIR and MIR groups have significantly higher lubricin content than CON group, whereas, significantly lower lubricin content was found in HIR group compared with CON, LIR or MIR group. A significant inverse correlation was detected between the lubricin content and Mankin score. In addition, considerably higher mRNA gene expression of PRG4 and TGF-β was found in LIR and MIR groups, compared with those in CON and HIR groups.


There is a marked intensity-specific effect of running on the immunolocalisation and gene expression of lubricin in cartilage, which is inversely correlated with Mankin score. Our findings provide evidences that mechanical factors are key determinants of lubricin metabolism in vivo.