A hallmark of inflammatory bowel disease [IBD] is chronic inflammation, which leads to excessive extracellular matrix [ECM] remodelling and release of specific protein fragments, called neoepitopes. We speculated that the biomarker profile panel for ulcerative colitis [UC] and Crohn's disease [CD] represent a heterogeneous expression pattern, and may be applied as a tool to aid in the differentiation between UC and CD.

Serum biomarkers of degraded collagens I, III-IV [C1M, C3M, and C4M], collagen type 1 and IV formation [P1NP, P4NP], and citrullinated and MMP-degraded vimentin [VICM] were studied with a competitive ELISA assay system in a cohort including 164 subjects [CD n = 72, UC n = 60, and non-IBD controls n = 32] and a validation cohort of 61 subjects [CD n = 46, and UC n = 15]. Receiver operating characteristic curve analysis and logistic regression modelling were carried out to evaluate the discriminative power of the biomarkers.

All biomarkers were corrected for confounding factors. VICM and C3M demonstrated the highest diagnostic power, alone, to differentiate CD from UC with an area under the curve [AUC] of 0.77 and 0.69, respectively. Furthermore, the biomarkers C1M [AUC = 0.81], C3M [AUC = 0.83], VICM [AUC = 0.83], and P1NP [AUC = 0.77] were best to differentiate UC from non-IBD. The best combinations of biomarkers to differentiate CD from UC and UC from non-IBD were VICM, C3M, C4M [AUC = 0.90] and VICM, C3M [AUC = 0.98] respectively.

Specific extracellular matrix degradation markers are elevated in IBD and can discriminate CD from UC and UC from non-IBD controls with a high diagnostic accuracy.