Inflammatory cytokines and cellular metabolites as synovial fluid biomarkers of posttraumatic ankle arthritis

Foot Ankle Int. 2014 Dec;35(12):1241-9. doi: 10.1177/1071100714550652. Epub 2014 Sep 8.


Background: There is a paucity of research on posttraumatic ankle arthritis (PTAA). We aimed to identify synovial fluid PTAA biomarkers using cytokine analysis and metabolic profiling.

Methods: Ankle joint synovial fluid was obtained from 20 patients with PTAA and 20 patients with no ankle pain and no radiographic evidence of ankle arthritis (control group). Synovial fluid samples were analyzed for IFN-γ, TNF-α, MIP-1β, MCP-1, IL-1β, IL-1Ra, IL-4, IL-6, IL-8, IL-10, IL-13, and IL-15 using ELISA and for more than 3000 metabolites using liquid and gas chromatography with mass spectroscopy. To compare presence of cytokines and metabolites between groups, t tests were used. Random forest analysis was performed on metabolites to determine whether control and PTAA samples could be differentiated based on metabolic profile.

Results: IL-1Ra, IL-6, IL-8, IL-10, IL-15, and MCP-1 were significantly elevated in the PTAA group. In addition, 107 metabolites in the PTAA group were significantly altered, including derangement in amino acid, carbohydrate, lipid, and energy metabolism, extracellular matrix turnover, and collagen degradation. Random forest analysis yielded a predictive accuracy of 90% when using the metabolic profiles to distinguish between control and PTAA samples.

Conclusion: This study identified inflammatory cytokines and metabolites present in the synovial fluid of PTAA.

Clinical relevance: Several of these entities have previously been implicated in rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis of the knee, but many could potentially be used as novel biomarkers of PTAA. Most importantly, the findings suggest that metabolites could be used to distinguish synovial fluid from patients with PTAA.

Keywords: ankle; arthritis; biomarkers; cytokines; metabolic profiling; posttraumatic; synovial fluid.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Ankle Joint / metabolism*
  • Ankle Joint / physiopathology
  • Arthritis / diagnosis*
  • Arthritis / diagnostic imaging
  • Arthritis / etiology
  • Arthritis, Rheumatoid / diagnosis
  • Arthritis, Rheumatoid / metabolism
  • Biomarkers / analysis
  • Biomarkers / metabolism
  • Case-Control Studies
  • Cytokines / metabolism*
  • Diagnosis, Differential
  • Enzyme-Linked Immunosorbent Assay
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Inflammation Mediators / metabolism
  • Male
  • Mass Spectrometry
  • Metabolome / physiology*
  • Middle Aged
  • Osteoarthritis / diagnosis
  • Osteoarthritis / metabolism
  • Radiography
  • Reference Values
  • Sampling Studies
  • Sensitivity and Specificity
  • Synovial Fluid / metabolism*
  • Wounds and Injuries / complications*
  • Wounds and Injuries / diagnosis


  • Biomarkers
  • Cytokines
  • Inflammation Mediators