Cartilage biomarkers in ankylosing spondylitis: relationship to clinical variables and treatment response

Arthritis Rheum. 2005 Mar;52(3):885-91. doi: 10.1002/art.20870.


Objective: Ankylosing spondylitis (AS) is a progressive disease in which chronic inflammation can lead to extensive new bone formation throughout the spine. At present, few measures of the activity or extent of the disease are available. In this study, we sought to determine whether markers of cartilage synthesis and degradation could provide such quantitative measures.

Methods: Serum samples from 23 patients receiving infliximab treatment for AS were obtained at baseline and at weeks 2, 6, 14, and 22. Patients were stratified with respect to joint involvement and baseline levels of inflammatory markers, and responders were defined according to the Assessments in Ankylosing Spondylitis 20% criteria. Serial measurements of interferon-gamma, tumor necrosis factor alpha, transforming growth factor beta (TGFbeta), interleukin-10 (IL-10), and IL-1 were done at each time point. The following biomarkers were measured by enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay: the proteoglycan aggrecan 846 epitope, a marker of cartilage turnover; C-propeptide of type II collagen (CPII), a biosynthesis marker; and the Col2-3/4(long mono) (C2C) and Col2-3/4(short) (C1-2C) neoepitopes, reflecting collagen cleavage of type II collagen and type I/type II collagen, respectively.

Results: At baseline, patients with AS demonstrated significant elevations in serum levels of CPII, the 846 epitope, and the CPII-to-C2C (CPII:C2C) ratio (but not C2C or C1-2C) compared with normal controls. Of the biomarkers examined, only CPII:C2C showed a correlation with the C-reactive protein (CRP) level. Among the biomarker-cytokine relationships, TGFbeta demonstrated a trend toward a positive correlation with the 846 epitope.

Conclusion: In AS, elevated serum levels of CPII and the 846 epitope may be related to biosynthetic turnover of hyaline cartilage and the intervertebral discs but may also reflect progressive bone formation as a result of endochondral ossification. The correlation of the CPII:C2C ratio with CRP suggests that the CPII:C2C ratio might prove to be a useful marker of disease activity in AS.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aggrecans
  • Antibodies, Monoclonal / therapeutic use
  • Antirheumatic Agents / therapeutic use
  • Biomarkers / blood
  • Calcium-Binding Proteins / blood
  • Cartilage / metabolism*
  • Cartilage / physiopathology*
  • Collagen / blood
  • Collagen Type II
  • Extracellular Matrix Proteins / blood
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Infliximab
  • Lectins, C-Type
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Proteoglycans / blood
  • Spondylitis, Ankylosing / blood
  • Spondylitis, Ankylosing / drug therapy
  • Spondylitis, Ankylosing / metabolism*
  • Spondylitis, Ankylosing / physiopathology*


  • Aggrecans
  • Antibodies, Monoclonal
  • Antirheumatic Agents
  • Biomarkers
  • Calcium-Binding Proteins
  • Collagen Type II
  • Extracellular Matrix Proteins
  • Lectins, C-Type
  • Proteoglycans
  • chondrocalcin
  • Collagen
  • Infliximab