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The novel hypothesis that the secretion of the joint lubricant hyaluronan (HA) is coupled to movement has implications for normal function and osteoarthritis, and was tested in the knee joints of anaesthetized rabbits. After washing out the endogenous synovial fluid HA (miscibility coefficient 0.4), secretion into the joint cavity was measured over 5 h in static joints and in passively cycled joints. The net static secretion rate (11.2 +/- 0.7 microg h(-1), mean +/- s.e.m., n = 90) correlated with the variable endogenous HA mass (mean 367 +/- 8 microg), with a normalized value of 3.4 +/- 0.2 microg h(-1) (100 microg)(-1) . Cyclic joint movement approximately doubled the net HA secretion rate to 22.6 +/- 1.2 microg h(-1) (n = 77) and raised the normalized percentage to 5.9 +/- 0.3 microg h(-1) (100 microg)(-1). Secretion was inhibited by 2-deoxyglucose and iodoacetate, confirming active secretion. The net accumulation rate underestimated true secretion rate due to some trans-synovial loss. HA turnover time (endogenous mass/secretion rate) was 17-30 h (static) to 8-15 h (moved) The results demonstrate for the first time that the active secretion of HA is coupled to joint usage. Movement-secretion coupling may protect joints against the damaging effects of repetitive joint use, replace HA lost during periods of immobility (overnight), and contribute to the clinical benefit of exercise therapy in moderate osteoarthritis.

Original publication




Journal article


J physiol

Publication Date





1715 - 1729


Animals, Hyaluronic Acid, Knee Joint, Metabolic Clearance Rate, Movement, Physical Exertion, Rabbits, Range of Motion, Articular, Synovial Fluid, Synovial Membrane