Objective: To investigate whether plasma levels of matrix metalloproteinases 3 (MMP-3, stromelysin), MMP-1 (collagenase), tissue inhibitor of metalloproteinases 1 (TIMP-1), and MMP1/TIMP-1 complex (MT complex) are specifically elevated in erosive joint diseases compared to nonerosive rheumatic diseases, and to assess how these markers reflect the clinical activity of rheumatoid arthritis (RA) compared to circulating cytokines and markers of connective tissue turnover as well as established variables [C-reactive protein (CRP), erythrocyte sedimentation rate (ESR), and rheumatoid factor titer].
Methods: Plasma levels of MMP-3, MMP-1, TIMP- 1, and MT complex were determined by ELISA. One hundred fifteen patients with RA, 20 with osteoarthritis (OA), 28 with psoriasis arthritis (PsA), 24 with ankylosing spondylitis (AS), 3 groups with systemic autoimmune diseases, and 30 healthy controls were analyzed. In patients with RA routine laboratory variables, circulating inflammatory cytokines [interleukin 1 (IL-1), tumor necrosis factor-alpha (TNF-alpha), and IL-6], collagen degradation products, and markers of bone formation were determined in parallel and were correlated to 4 variables of clinical activity.
Results: MMP-3 levels were markedly elevated in RA compared to controls and OA, but also in all other groups, including 26 patients with systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE). MMP-1 levels were significantly elevated in RA, but also in OA, PsA, SLE, and mixed connective tissue disease. In contrast, MT complex was elevated in RA only. TIMP-1 was not different from controls. CRP levels, MMP-3, and ESR correlated best with clinical activity of RA. In contrast, there was no correlation of IL-1 and TNF-alpha and only a weak correlation of IL-6 with clinical measures. Among variables of connective tissue turnover, only pyridinoline and deoxypyridinoline crosslinks were weakly correlated with disease activity.
Conclusion: Elevated MMP-3 and MMP-1 levels are not specific for RA or for erosive joint diseases in general. In contrast, elevated MT complex levels were observed in patients with RA. However, the correlation of MT-1 with clinical data was weaker than that of MMP-3. Elevated MMP-3 levels reflected disease activity of RA better than cytokine levels or markers of connective tissue turnover. However, MMP-3 levels do not exceed the association of CRP with clinical activity.