Objectives: To conduct a comprehensive quantitative proteomics analysis of novel serum protein biomarkers based on synovitis status associated with matrix metalloproteinase-3 (MMP-3) and to determine the clinical significance of these biomarkers in rheumatoid arthritis (RA). Methods: Patients with untreated RA (n=28), primary Sjogren's syndrome (pSS) (n=30), and healthy controls (HCs) (n=30) were enrolled for the screening assay. A total of 1128 serum proteins were analyzed using the SOMAscan™ assay. Serum levels of MMP-3 and interleukin (IL)-16 were measured using a latex turbidimetric immunoassay and ELISA at baseline and 12 weeks after treatment with methotrexate (MTX) for MTX-naïve RA patients (n=28) or with the biologics tocilizumab (TCZ) (n= 7), abatacept (ABT) (n=11) or infliximab (n=22) for MTX-inadequate response (IR) RA patients. Correlation analysis was conducted using Spearman's rank correlation method. Results: Proteomics showed that serum IL-16 levels were most positively correlated with those of MMP-3 (ρ= 0.51, p< 0.01) and were significantly increased in patients with untreated active RA compared to HCs (p< 0.01) or those with pSS (p< 0.01). IL-16 levels decreased following treatment in both the MTX-naïve and MTX-IR groups. Regarding clinical response, fluctuations in IL-16 levels were positively associated with changes in clinical indicators, particularly the Clinical Disease Activity Index (ρ= 0.89, p< 0.01) in the TCZ and ABT-treated group. However, no similar correlation was noted in MMP-3 and acute phase reactants in any groups. Conclusions: IL-16 was a more effective clinical parameter than MMP-3, C-reactive protein, or erythrocyte sedimentation rate in both MTX-naive and MTX-IR RA patients. IL-16 might be a useful biomarker for evaluating clinical response in RA patients.
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