The elucidation of biolubrication mechanisms and the design of artificial biotribological contacts requires the development of model surfaces that can help to tease out the cues that govern friction in biological systems. Polysaccharides provide an interesting option as a biotribological mimic due to their similarity with the glycosylated molecules present at biointerfaces. Here, pectin was successfully covalently grafted at its reducing end to a polydimethylsiloxane (PDMS) surface via a reductive amination reaction. This method enabled the formation of a wear resistant pectin layer that provided enhanced boundary lubrication compared to adsorbed pectin. Pectins with different degrees of methylesterification and blockiness were exposed to salt solutions of varying ionic strength and displayed responsiveness to solvent conditions. Exposure of the grafted pectin layers to solutions of between 1 and 200 mM NaCl resulted in a decrease in boundary friction and an increase in the hydration and swelling of the pectin layer to varying degrees depending on the charge density of the pectin, showing the potential to tune the conformation and friction of the layer using the pectin architecture and environmental cues. The robust and responsive nature of these new pectin grafted surfaces makes them an effective mimic of biotribological interfaces and provides a powerful tool to study the intricate mechanisms involved in the biolubrication phenomenon.
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