C-telopeptide of type II collagen (CTX-II) has been shown to be a highly relevant biomarker of cartilage degradation in human rheumatic diseases, if measured in synovial fluid or urine. However, serum or plasma CTX-II have not been demonstrated to have any clinical utility to date. Here, we describe the GPDPLQ1237 ELISA which targets the EKGPDPLQ↓ neo-epitope, an elongated version of the CTX-II neo-epitope (EKGPDP↓), speculated to be a blood-precursor of CTX-II generated by the cysteine protease cathepsin K. Human osteoclast cartilage resorption cultures as well as oncostatin M and tumour necrosis factor α-stimulated bovine cartilage explant cultures were used to validate GPDPLQ1237 biologically by treating the cultures with the cysteine protease inhibitor E-64 and/or the matrix metalloproteinase (MMP) inhibitor GM6001 to assess the potential contributions of these two protease classes to GPDPLQ1237 release. Cartilage resorption-derived GPDPLQ1237 release was inhibited by E-64 (72.1% inhibition), GM6001 (75.5%), and E-64/GM6001 (91.5%), whereas CTX-II release was inhibited by GM6001 (87.0%) but not by E-64 (5.5%). Cartilage explant GPDPLQ1237 and CTX-II release were both fully inhibited by GM6001 but were not inhibited by E-64. No clinically relevant GPDPLQ1237 reactivity was identified in human serum, plasma, or urine from healthy donors or arthritis patients. In conclusion, the GPDPLQ1237 biomarker is released during osteoclast-derived cysteine protease- and MMP-mediated cartilage degradation in vitro, whereas CTX-II release is mediated by MMPs and not by cysteine proteases, as well as from MMP-mediated cartilage degradation under a pro-inflammatory stimulus. These findings suggest that GPDPLQ1237 may be relevant in diseases with pathological osteoclast activity and cartilage degradation. Further studies are required to validate the neo-epitope in human samples.

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