Objective Knee osteoarthritis (OA) is a heterogeneous, complex joint pathology of unknown aetiology. Biomarkers have been widely used to investigate OA but currently available biomarkers lack specificity and sensitivity. Therefore, novel biomarkers are needed to better understand the pathophysiological processes of OA initiation and progression.
Methods Surface enhanced laser desorption/ionisation-time of flight-mass spectrometry proteomic technique was used to analyse protein expression levels in 284 serum samples from patients with knee OA classified according to Kellgren and Lawrence (K&L) score (0–4). OA serum samples were also compared to serum samples provided by healthy individuals (negative control subjects; NC; n=36) and rheumatoid arthritis (RA) patients (n=25). Proteins that gave similar signal in all K&L groups of OA patients were ignored, whereas proteins with increased or decreased levels of expression were selected for further studies.
Results Two proteins were found to be expressed at higher levels in sera of OA patients at all four K&L scores compared to NC and RA, and were identified as V65 vitronectin fragment and C3fpeptide. Of the two remaining proteins, one showed increased expression (unknown protein at m/z of 3762) and the other (identified as connective tissue-activating peptide III protein) was decreased in K&L scores >2 subsets compared to NC, RA and K&L scores 0 or 1 subsets.
Conclusion The authors detected four unexpected biomarkers (V65 vitronectin fragment, C3f peptide, CTAP-III and m/z 3762 protein) that could be relevant in the pathophysiological process of OA as having significant correlation with parameters reflecting local inflammation and bone remodelling, as well as decrease in cartilage turnover.
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