Calprotectin as a biomarker for rheumatoid arthritis: a systematic review

J Rheumatol. 2015 May;42(5):760-70. doi: 10.3899/jrheum.140628. Epub 2015 Mar 1.


Objective: Calprotectin (myeloid-related protein 8/14), a heterodimeric complex of calcium-binding proteins, is expressed in granulocytes and monocytes. Calprotectin levels are high in synovial tissue, particularly in activated cells adjacent to the cartilage-pannus junction. This systematic review evaluates the use of calprotectin as an indicator of disease activity, therapeutic response, and prognosis in rheumatoid arthritis (RA).

Methods: Medline, Scopus, and the Cochrane Library (1970-2013) were searched for studies containing original data from patients with RA in whom calprotectin levels were measured in plasma/serum and/or synovial fluid (SF). We included studies examining associations between calprotectin levels and clinical and laboratory assessments, disease progression, and therapeutic response. There were no restrictions for sample size, disease duration, or length of followup.

Results: We evaluated 17 studies (1988-2013) with 1065 patients enrolled; 11 were cross-sectional and 8 had longitudinal designs with 2 studies reporting cross-sectional and longitudinal data. Systemic and SF levels of calprotectin were raised in RA. There was a wide range of levels and marked interstudy and intrastudy variability. Calprotectin levels were high in active disease and were particularly high in rheumatoid factor (RF)-positive patients. Levels fell with effective treatment. Longitudinal data showed that calprotectin was a significant and independent predictor of erosive progression and therapeutic responses, particularly in patients who received effective biological treatments.

Conclusion: SF calprotectin levels are high, suggesting there is substantial local production by inflamed synovium. Blood calprotectin levels, though highly variable, are elevated in active RA and fall with effective therapy. High baseline calprotectin levels predict future erosive damage.


Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Arthritis, Rheumatoid / diagnosis*
  • Arthritis, Rheumatoid / metabolism
  • Biomarkers / metabolism
  • Disease Progression
  • Humans
  • Leukocyte L1 Antigen Complex / metabolism*
  • Prognosis
  • Severity of Illness Index
  • Synovial Fluid / metabolism
  • Synovial Membrane / metabolism


  • Biomarkers
  • Leukocyte L1 Antigen Complex