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OBJECTIVE: To investigate the relationship between markers of collagen II synthesis and degradation with disease activity measures, autoantibodies, and radiographic outcomes in a 4-year protocol on patients with early rheumatoid arthritis (RA) who are naïve to disease-modifying antirheumatic drugs. METHODS: One hundred sixty patients with newly diagnosed, untreated RA entered the Cyclosporine, Methotrexate, Steroid in RA (CIMESTRA) trial. Disease activity and radiograph status were measured at baseline and 4 years. The N-terminal propeptide of collagen IIA (PIIANP) and the cross-linked C-telopeptide of collagen II (CTX-II) were quantified at baseline by ELISA. PIIANP was also assayed at 2 and 4 years. Anticyclic citrullinated peptide (anti-CCP) was recorded at baseline. An uncoupling index for cartilage collagen metabolism was calculated from PIIANP and CTX-II measurements. RESULTS: PIIANP was low at diagnosis and 4 years on (p < 0.001), irrespective of treatment and disease activity. PIIANP was lowest in anti-CCP positive patients (p = 0.006), and there was a negative correlation between PIIANP and anti-CCP titers (rho = -0.25, p 0.002). CTX-II was increased (p < 0.001) and correlated positively with disease activity and radiographic progression, but not with anti-CCP (p = 0.93). The uncoupling index was not superior to CTX-II in predicting radiographic changes. CONCLUSION: These results suggest that cartilage collagen formation and degradation are unbalanced when RA is diagnosed. The different associations of collagen II anabolism (PIIANP) and collagen II degradation (CTX-II) with anti-CCP, synovitis, and radiographic progression indicate that at this early stage of RA, cartilage collagen degradation is mainly driven by synovitis, while anti-CCP antibodies may interfere with cartilage regeneration by inhibiting collagen IIA formation. Trial registration NCT00209859.

Original publication




Journal article


J Rheumatol

Publication Date





1113 - 1120


Adolescent, Adult, Aged, Arthritis, Rheumatoid, Autoantibodies, Biomarkers, Cartilage, Articular, Collagen Type II, Disease Progression, Female, Humans, Male, Middle Aged, Peptide Fragments, Peptides, Cyclic, Procollagen, Severity of Illness Index, Synovitis, Young Adult