Quantification of chondroitin sulfate, hyaluronic acid and N-glycans in synovial fluid - A technical performance study

Osteoarthr Cartil Open. 2023 Jun 10;5(3):100380. doi: 10.1016/j.ocarto.2023.100380. eCollection 2023 Sep.


Objective: To validate a quantitative high performance liquid chromatography (HPLC) assay for chondroitin sulfate (CS) and hyaluronic acid (HA) in synovial fluid, and to analyze glycan-patterns in patient samples.

Design: Synovial fluid from osteoarthritis (OA, n ​= ​25) and knee-injury (n ​= ​13) patients, a synovial fluid pool (SF-control) and purified aggrecan, were chondroitinase digested and together with CS- and HA-standards fluorophore labelled prior to quantitative HPLC analysis. N-glycan profiles of synovial fluid and aggrecan were assessed by mass spectrometry.

Results: Unsaturated uronic acid and sulfated-N-acetylgalactosamine (ΔUA-GalNAc4S and ΔUA-GalNAc6S) contributed to 95% of the total CS-signal in the SF-control sample. For HA and the CS variants in SF-control the intra- and inter-experiment coefficient of variation was between 3-12% and 11-19%, respectively; tenfold dilution gave recoveries between 74 and 122%, and biofluid stability test (room temperature storage and freeze-thaw cycles) showed recoveries between 81 and 140%. Synovial fluid concentrations of the CS variants ΔUA-GalNAc6S and ΔUA2S-GalNAc6S were three times higher in the recent injury group compared to the OA group, while HA was four times lower. Sixty-one different N-glycans were detected in the synovial fluid samples, but there were no differences in levels of N-glycan classes between patient groups. The CS-profile (levels of ΔUA-GalNAc4S and ΔUA-GalNAc6S) in synovial fluid resembled that of purified aggrecan from corresponding samples; the contribution to the N-glycan profile in synovial fluid from aggrecan was low.

Conclusions: The HPLC-assay is suitable for analyzing CS variants and HA in synovial fluid samples, and the GAG-pattern differs between OA and recently knee injured subjects.

Keywords: Chondroitin sulfate; HPLC; Mass spectrometry; N-Glycan; Synovial fluid.