Objective: To determine the relationship between matrix metalloproteinases (MMPs), their inhibitors, and the turnover of matrix molecules in articular cartilage from patients with osteoarthritis (OA).
Methods: Synovial fluid samples were collected from the knees of 54 patients with OA. Radiographic evaluations and magnetic resonance imaging were performed on the knees of 34 OA patients to classify the stage of the disease. Biochemical analyses and immunoassays were used to measure the concentrations of MMP-1, MMP-3, tissue inhibitor of metalloproteinases 1 (TIMP-1), TIMP-2, the disaccharide of hyaluronic acid, the proteoglycan glycosaminoglycan disaccharides of chondroitin 4-sulfate (delta di-CS4) and chondroitin 6-sulfate (delta di-CS6), the 846 epitope on chondroitin sulfate of cartilage proteoglycan aggrecan (putative biosynthetic marker), the keratan sulfate (KS) epitope of aggrecan (putative degradation marker), and the C-propeptide of cartilage type II procollagen (CPII) (biosynthetic marker).
Results: The concentration of TIMP-1 was directly correlated with the levels of MMP-1 and MMP-3 (both were also correlated with each other), confirming earlier results. There was an inverse correlation between the delta di-CS6:delta di-CS4 ratio and the concentration of MMP-3. The level of delta di-CS6 was correlated with that of the KS epitope, and to a lesser degree, with that of the 846 epitope (the latter was also correlated with the level of delta di-CS4). The concentration of TIMP-1 correlated with that of the 846 epitope, whereas TIMP-2 levels correlated with those of CPII. There were significantly lower concentrations of delta di-CS6, delta di-CS4, the 846 epitope, and CPII in synovial fluid from patients with late-stage OA.
Conclusion: These observations suggest a link between proteolysis and inhibitor concentrations in OA cartilage. Production of TIMPs appears to be individually linked to the synthesis of specific cartilage molecules. The reduction in the amount of cartilage-matrix structural components suggests that there is a measurable loss of cartilage in the late stages of the disease, as suggested previously. The resultant composition of the cartilage suggests that the loss may primarily involve "resident" molecules originally present in healthy cartilage.