Trypsin-2 degrades human type II collagen and is expressed and activated in mesenchymally transformed rheumatoid arthritis synovitis tissue.
It has traditionally been believed that only the human collagenases (matrix metalloproteinase-1, -8, and -13) are capable of initiating the degradation of collagens. Here, we show that human trypsin-2 is also capable of cleaving the triple helix of human cartilage collagen type II. We purified human trypsin-2 and tumor-associated trypsin inhibitor by affinity chromatography whereas collagen type II was purified from cartilage extracts using pepsin digestion and salt precipitation. Degradation of type II collagen and gelatin by trypsin-2 was demonstrated with sodium dodecyl sulfate-polyacrylamide gel electrophoresis, zymography, and mass spectrometry, and tumor-associated trypsin inhibitor specifically inhibited this degradation. Although human trypsin-2 efficiently digested type II collagen, bovine trypsin did not. Furthermore, immunohistochemical staining detected trypsin-2 in the fibroblast-like synovial lining and in stromal cells of human rheumatoid arthritis synovial membrane. These findings were confirmed by reverse transcriptase-polymerase chain reaction and nucleotide sequencing. Trypsin-2 alone and complexed with alpha(1)-proteinase inhibitor were also detected in the synovial fluid of affected joints by time-resolved immunofluorometric assay, suggesting that trypsin-2 is activated locally. These results are the first to assess the ability of human trypsin to cleave human type II collagen. Thus, trypsin-2 and its regulators should be further studied for use as markers of prognosis and disease activity in rheumatoid arthritis.