The clinical relevance of observations of serum levels of osteoprotegerin (OPG) and receptor activator of nuclear factor -κB ligand (RANKL) in juvenile idiopathic arthritis (JIA) is not clear. To elucidate the potential role of OPG and RANKL in JIA we determined serum levels of OPG and RANKL in patients with early JIA compared to healthy children, and prospectively explored changes in relation to radiographic score, bone and lean mass, severity of the disease, and treatment.
Ninety children with early oligoarticular or polyarticular JIA (ages 6-18 years; mean disease duration 19.4 months) and 90 healthy children individually matched for age, sex, race, and county of residence, were examined at baseline and 2-year follow-up. OPG and RANKL were quantified by enzyme-immunoassay. Data were analyzed with the use of t-tests, ANOVA, and multiple regression analyses.
Serum OPG was significantly lower in patients than controls at baseline, and there was a trend towards higher RANKL and a lower OPG/RANKL ratio. Patients with polyarthritis had significantly higher increments in RANKL from baseline to follow-up, compared to patients with oligoarthritis. RANKL was a significant negative predictor for increments in total body lean mass. Patients who were receiving corticosteroids (CS) or disease-modifying antirheumatic drugs (DMARDs) at follow-up had higher OPG/RANKL ratio compared with patients who did not receive this medication.
The data supports that levels of OPG are lower in patients with JIA compared to healthy children, and higher levels of RANKL is associated with more serious disease. RANKL was a significant negative predictor of lean mass in patients with JIA. The OPG/RANKL ratio was higher in patients on DMARDs or CS treatment.