Matrix metalloproteinase activity in equine synovial fluid: influence of age, osteoarthritis, and osteochondrosis

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To investigate the influence of age, osteoarthritis (OA), and osteochondrosis (OC) on the matrix metalloproteinase (MMP) activity in the synovial fluid (SF) of equine joints.


SF was collected from normal and osteoarthritic metacarpophalangeal joints (normal: 14 adult, 28 juvenile; OA: 22 adult). And from normal and osteochondrotic tarsocrural joints (5 months: 11 normal, 8 OC; 11 months: 7 normal, 6 OC). Subsequently, overall MMP activity was measured.


The level of active MMPs was almost twofold higher in SF from juvenile horses (age up to 11 months) than in SF from mature animals (4-30 years; p<0.001). In juvenile horses MMP activity was higher in 5 month old foals than in 11 month old foals (p<0.01). In adult horses MMP activity was independent of age. In OA joints the activity was nearly twice as high as in normal joints (p<0.001). In OC joints MMP activity was not significantly different from normal, age matched, control joints.


MMP activity in SF from normal adult joints is not related to age. In juvenile joints MMP activity is significantly higher than activity in joints from adult animals. It is hypothesised that the gradual decrease in MMP activity with increasing age reflects the declining metabolic activity resulting from ceasing growth and the accompanying decrease in cartilage remodelling. The increased MMP activity in osteoarthritic joints most likely reflects matrix destruction. In osteochondrosis MMP mediated matrix degradation appears not to be different from normal joints.

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