The CRTAC1 Protein in Plasma Is Associated With Osteoarthritis and Predicts Progression to Joint Replacement: A Large-Scale Proteomics Scan in Iceland

Arthritis Rheumatol. 2021 Nov;73(11):2025-2034. doi: 10.1002/art.41793. Epub 2021 Sep 28.


Objective: Biomarkers for diagnosis and progression of osteoarthritis (OA) are lacking. This study was undertaken to identify circulating biomarkers for OA that could predict disease occurrence and/or progression to joint replacement.

Methods: Using the SomaScan platform, we measured 4,792 proteins in plasma from 37,278 individuals, of whom 12,178 individuals had OA and 2,524 had undergone joint replacement. We performed a case-control study for identification of potential protein biomarkers for hip, knee, and/or hand OA, and a prospective study for identification of biomarkers for joint replacement.

Results: Among the large panel of plasma proteins assessed, cartilage acidic protein 1 (CRTAC1) was the most strongly associated with both OA diagnosis (odds ratio 1.46 [95% confidence interval 1.41-1.52] for knee OA, odds ratio 1.36 [95% confidence interval 1.29-1.43] for hip OA, and odds ratio 1.33 [95% confidence interval 1.26-1.40] for hand OA) and progression to joint replacement (hazard ratio 1.40 [95% confidence interval 1.30-1.51] for knee replacement and hazard ratio 1.31 [95% confidence interval 1.19-1.45] for hip replacement). Patients with OA who were in the highest quintile of risk of joint replacement, based on known risk factors (i.e., age, sex, and body mass index) and plasma CRTAC1 level, were 16 times more likely to undergo knee replacement within 5 years of plasma sample collection than those in the lowest quintile, and 6.5 times more likely to undergo hip replacement. CRTAC1 was not associated with other types of inflammatory arthritis. A specific protein profile was identified in those patients who had undergone joint replacement prior to plasma sample collection.

Conclusion: Through a hypothesis-free approach, we identified CRTAC1 in plasma as a novel promising candidate biomarker for OA that is both associated with occurrence of OA and predictive of progression to joint replacement. This biomarker might also be useful in the selection of suitable patients for clinical trial enrollment.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Arthroplasty, Replacement*
  • Biomarkers / blood
  • Calcium-Binding Proteins / blood*
  • Case-Control Studies
  • Disease Progression
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Iceland
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Osteoarthritis / blood*
  • Osteoarthritis / diagnosis
  • Osteoarthritis / surgery
  • Prospective Studies
  • Proteomics


  • Biomarkers
  • CRTAC1 protein, human
  • Calcium-Binding Proteins