Angiopoietin-2/-1 ratios and MMP-3 levels as an early warning sign for the presence of giant cell arteritis in patients with polymyalgia rheumatica

Yannick van Sleen*, Philip Therkildsen, Berit Dalsgaard Nielsen, Kornelis S M van der Geest, Ib Hansen, Peter Heeringa, Marcel D Posthumus, Maria Sandovici, Erik J M Toonen, Jannik Zijlstra, Annemieke M H Boots, Ellen-Margrethe Hauge, Elisabeth Brouwer

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

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BACKGROUND: Diagnosing patients with giant cell arteritis (GCA) remains difficult. Due to its non-specific symptoms, it is challenging to identify GCA in patients presenting with symptoms of polymyalgia rheumatica (PMR), which is a more common disease. Also, commonly used acute-phase markers CRP and ESR fail to discriminate GCA patients from PMR and (infectious) mimicry patients. Therefore, we investigated biomarkers reflecting vessel wall inflammation for their utility in the accurate diagnosis of GCA in two international cohorts.

METHODS: Treatment-naïve GCA patients participated in the Aarhus AGP cohort (N = 52) and the Groningen GPS cohort (N = 48). The AGP and GPS biomarker levels and symptoms were compared to patients presenting phenotypically as isolated PMR, infectious mimicry controls and healthy controls (HCs). Serum/plasma levels of 12 biomarkers were measured by ELISA or Luminex.

RESULTS: In both the AGP and the GPS cohort, we found that weight loss, elevated erythrocyte sedimentation rate (ESR) and higher angiopoietin-2/-1 ratios but lower matrix metalloproteinase (MMP)-3 levels identify concomitant GCA in PMR patients. In addition, we confirmed that elevated platelet counts are characteristic of GCA but not of GCA mimicry controls and that low MMP-3 and proteinase 3 (PR3) levels may help to discriminate GCA from infections.

CONCLUSION: This study, performed in two independent international cohorts, consistently shows the potential of angiopoietin-2/-1 ratios and MMP-3 levels to identify GCA in patients presenting with PMR. These biomarkers may be used to select which PMR patients require further diagnostic workup. Platelet counts may be used to discriminate GCA from GCA look-alike patients.

Original languageEnglish
Article number65
Number of pages10
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 7-Mar-2022


  • Angiopoietin-1/blood
  • Angiopoietin-2/blood
  • Biomarkers/blood
  • Cohort Studies
  • Giant Cell Arteritis/diagnosis
  • Humans
  • Matrix Metalloproteinase 3/blood
  • Polymyalgia Rheumatica/diagnosis

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