Background: Ulcerative colitis (UC) is characterized by frequent relapses, with the presence of colorectal inflammation and mucosal lesions. Matrix-metalloprotease 9 (MMP-9) is elevated in colonic biopsies, urine, and blood plasma of UC patients. MMP-9 has been suggested as a predictor of UC in the urine of children; however, 20% of the controls tested positive. So far, fecal MMP-9 levels have never been measured. Our aims were: 1) to compare fecal MMP-9 levels in UC patients to control subjects and a functional gastrointestinal disorder characterized by diarrhea (IBS-D); 2) to test the correlation between UC disease activity and fecal levels of MMP-9; and 3) to correlate fecal MMP-9 levels with a known fecal marker of UC activity, calprotectin.
Methods: UC (n = 47), IBS-D (n = 23) patients, and control subjects (n = 24) provided fecal samples for MMP-9 analysis. In UC patients, disease severity was evaluated by the Mayo score. Fecal MMP-9 and calprotectin levels were measured by enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay and lateral flow assay, respectively.
Results: MMP-9 was undetectable or ≤0.22 ng/mL in the feces of all controls and IBS-D patients. In UC patients, fecal MMP-9 levels significantly correlated with the overall Mayo score (P < 0.001), the endoscopic score (P < 0.001), and the serum C-reactive protein levels (P = 0.002). Additionally, in UC patients fecal MMP-9 levels showed a significant correlation with a known disease activity marker, fecal calprotectin (P = 0.014).
Conclusions: These results highlight fecal MMP-9 as a useful tool in the differential diagnosis of diarrheic disorders and in the noninvasive evaluation of disease activity and mucosal healing in UC.