Objective: Emerging evidence suggests that injury to the anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) typically initiates biological changes that contribute to the development of osteoarthritis (OA). The molecular biomarkers or mediators of these biological events remain unknown. The goal of this exploratory study was to identify novel synovial fluid biomarkers associated with early biological changes following ACL injury distinct from findings in end-stage OA. Methods: Synovial fluid was aspirated from patients with acute (≤30 days) and subacute (31–90 days) ACL tears and from patients with advanced OA and probed via tandem mass spectrometry for biomarkers to distinguish OA from ACL injury. Periostin (POSTN) was identified as a potential candidate. Further analyses of POSTN were performed in synovial fluid, OA cartilage, torn ACL remnants, and cultured cells and media by Western blot, PCR, immunostaining and ELISA. Results: Synovial fluid analysis revealed that POSTN exhibited higher expression in subacute ACL injury than OA. POSTN expression was relatively low in cartilage/chondrocytes suggesting it is also produced by other intra-articular tissues. Conversely, high and time-dependent expression of POSTN in ACL tear remnants and isolated cells was consistent with the synovial fluid results. Conclusions: Elevated POSTN may provide a synovial fluid biomarker of subacute ACL injury setting separate from OA. Increased expression of POSTN in ACL suggests that the injured ACL may play a pivotal role in POSTN production, which is sensitive to time from injury. Previous studies have shown potential catabolic effects of POSTN, raising the possibility that POSTN contributes to the initiation of joint degeneration and may offer a window of opportunity to intervene in the early stages of post-traumatic OA.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1778-1789
Number of pages12
JournalOsteoarthritis and Cartilage
Issue number12
StatePublished - Dec 2019


  • ACL cells
  • Articular cartilage
  • Chondrocytes
  • Osteoarthritis
  • Time from injury


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