Biomarkers for diagnosing and monitoring autoimmune diseases

Biomarkers. 2005 Nov;10 Suppl 1:S44-9. doi: 10.1080/13547500500214194.


The goal of studies of autoimmune disease biomarkers is to identity markers that fluctuate with disease development and severity, but then normalize following successful therapy. The perfect marker could thus serve as a diagnostic tool, as well as a monitoring device for therapeutic drug efficacy. Current biomarker discovery efforts are focused on three groups of proteins reflective of the autoimmune disease process: (1) degradation products arising from destruction of affected tissues, (2) enzymes that play a role in tissue degradation and (3) cytokines and other proteins associated with immune activation. Potential biomarkers for two autoimmune diseases, rheumatoid arthritis and multiple sclerosis, have been described in recent publications. For rheumatoid arthritis, these markers (by group) include (1) aggrecan fragments, C-propeptide of type II collagen and cartilage oligomeric matrix protein, (2) matrix metalloprotease (MMP)-1, MMP-3 and MMP-1/inhibitor complexes and (3) thioredoxin, IL-16 and tumour necrosis factor (TNF)-alpha. For multiple sclerosis, they include (1) neurofilament light protein and glial fibrillary acidic protein, (2) MMP-2 and MMP-9 and (3) TNF-alpha and soluble vascular adhesion molecule-1. The utility of most of these markers is limited by their restriction to relatively inaccessible anatomic sites (synovial or cerebrospinal fluid). Thus, from a practical standpoint, the most useful autoimmune biomarkers will be those measurable in serum or plasma.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Arthritis, Rheumatoid / diagnosis
  • Arthritis, Rheumatoid / metabolism
  • Autoimmune Diseases / diagnosis*
  • Autoimmune Diseases / metabolism*
  • Biomarkers / metabolism*
  • Humans
  • Matrix Metalloproteinases / metabolism
  • Multiple Sclerosis / diagnosis
  • Multiple Sclerosis / metabolism


  • Biomarkers
  • Matrix Metalloproteinases