ADAMTS-4 (aggrecanase1) is believed to play an important role in the degradation of aggrecan during the progression of joint diseases. ADAMTS-4 is synthesized as a latent pro-enzyme that requires the removal of the pro-domain, exposing the N-terminal neoepitope, to achieve activity. We developed a monoclonal antibody against this neoepitope of active ADAMTS-4. Furthermore, we established and characterized a competitive ELISA for measuring active ADAMTS-4 form applying the specific antibody. We used this assay to profile the presence of active ADAMTS-4 and its aggrecan degradation product (NITEGE(373)) in a bovine cartilage ex vivo model. We found that after stimulation with catabolic factors, the cartilage initially released high levels of aggrecanase-derived aggrecan fragments into supernatant but subsequently decreased to background levels. The level of active ADAMTS-4 released into the supernatant and retained in the cartilage matrix increased continuously throughout the 21days of the study. The activity of ADAMTS-4 on the last day of catabolic stimulation was verified in vitro by adding deglycosylated or native aggrecan to the conditioned medium. Samples of human cartilage affected by varying degrees of osteoarthritis stained strongly for active ADAMTS-4 where surface fibrillation and clustered chondrocytes were observed. This assay could be an effective tool for studying ADAMTS-4 activity and for screening drugs regulating ADAMTS-4 activation. Moreover, it could be a potential biomarker for degenerative joint disease.
Matrix Biology, 2013, Vol 32, Issue 3–4, p. 143-51