Serum concentrations of two extracellular matrix molecules were determined over a 3 yr period in individuals with chronic knee pain to investigate whether sequential serum measurements of cartilage- and bone-derived molecular fragments reflect early stages of osteoarthritis (OA) of the knee joints. Thirty-eight individuals with chronic knee pain (> 3 months at inclusion) with or without radiographic evidence of knee joint OA at the 3 yr follow-up radiographic examination were studied. Serum concentrations of cartilage oligomeric matrix protein (COMP) and bone sialoprotein (BSP) increased significantly (P < 0.001) in the 23 individuals with radiographic OA at follow-up, while remaining unchanged in the 15 individuals with normal radiographs at follow-up. The baseline concentrations of the two variables did not differ between the groups. These findings suggest that pathological processes in cartilage and subchondral bone coincide in OA, and appear to be reflected by circulating levels of macromolecules released from cartilage and bone. Changes in serum levels of COMP and BSP are potential tools in studies of knee joint OA in subjects with chronic knee pain.