Systemic biochemical markers of joint metabolism and inflammation in relation to radiographic parameters and pain of the knee: data from CHECK, a cohort of early-osteoarthritis subjects

Osteoarthritis Cartilage. 2015 Jan;23(1):48-56. doi: 10.1016/j.joca.2014.09.003. Epub 2014 Sep 6.


Objective: To investigate associations of biochemical markers of joint metabolism and inflammation with minimum joint space width (JSW) and osteophyte area (OP area) of knees showing no or doubtful radiographic osteoarthritis (OA) and to investigate whether these differed between painful and non-painful knees.

Design: Serum (s-) and urinary (u-) levels of the cartilage markers uCTX-II, sCOMP, sPIIANP, and sCS846, bone markers uCTX-I, uNTX-I, sPINP, and sOC, synovial markers sPIIINP and sHA, and inflammation markers hsCRP and erythrocyte sedimentation rate (ESR) were assessed in subjects from CHECK (Cohort Hip and Cohort Knee) demonstrating Kellgren and Lawrence grade ≤1 OA on knee radiographs. Minimum JSW and OP area of these knees were quantified in detail using Knee Images Digital Analysis (KIDA).

Results: uCTX-II levels showed negative associations with minimum JSW and positive associations with OP area. sCOMP and sHA levels showed positive associations with OP area, but not with minimum JSW. uCTX-I and uNTX-I levels showed negative associations with minimum JSW and OP area. Associations of biochemical marker levels with minimum JSW were similar between painful and non-painful knees, associations of uCTX-II, sCOMP, and sHA with OP area were only observed in painful knees.

Conclusions: In these subjects with no or doubtful radiographic knee OA, uCTX-II might not only reflect articular cartilage degradation but also endochondral ossification in osteophytes. Furthermore, sCOMP and sHA relate to osteophytes, maybe because synovitis drives osteophyte development. High bone turnover may aggravate articular cartilage loss. Metabolic activity in osteophytes and synovial tissue, but not in articular cartilage may be related to knee pain.

Keywords: Biochemical markers; Inflammation; Joint space width; Osteoarthritis; Osteophytes.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Arthralgia / metabolism*
  • Biomarkers / blood
  • Biomarkers / urine
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Knee Joint / metabolism*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Osteoarthritis, Knee / diagnostic imaging*
  • Osteoarthritis, Knee / metabolism*
  • Radiography


  • Biomarkers