We examined the localization and boundary lubricating function of superficial zone protein (SZP) on the surface of mandibular condylar cartilage. Chondrocytes were separated from the surface layer of mandibular condylar cartilage of 6- to 9-month-old female pigs. A cyclic tensile strain of 7% or 21% cell elongation was applied to the cultured chondrocytes. Gene expression levels of cartilage matrix proteins and secretory phospholipase A(2) (sPLA(2)) were quantified by real-time polymerase chain reaction analysis. The friction coefficient of the mandibular condylar surface was measured by a friction tester before and after treatment with 0.1 U/ml sPLA(2). Significantly higher mRNA levels of SZP and type I collagen were found in chondrocytes from the superficial layer than in those in the other layers. The SZP mRNA level was up-regulated by cyclic tensile strain of 7% and 21% cell elongation. Cyclic tensile strain of 21% cell elongation up-regulated the sPLA(2) mRNA level. The friction coefficient of the condylar surface was increased significantly by treatment with sPLA(2). The removal of SZP from the surface layer of mandibular condylar cartilage by sPLA(2) resulted in a significant increase in the friction coefficient on the surface of articular cartilage.