Circulating levels of procollagen type III N-terminal peptide (P3NP) may reflect increased fibrosis of skeletal muscle and other tissues with aging. Herein, we tested if P3NP was associated with baseline and 7-year change in physical function.
Participants (n=400) were from the Long Life Family Study, a study of exceptional familial longevity. Plasma P3NP concentration was measured using a sandwich enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (inter-assay CVs <5.5%). At baseline and 7-year follow-up visits, physical function was measured using the Short Physical Performance Battery (score 0-12), which consists of gait speed, balance, and chair-rise tests. Grip strength was measured using a handheld dynamometer. The association between log transformed P3NP and physical function was examined using Generalized Estimating Equations adjusted for familial relatedness, age, sex, height, weight, lifestyle characteristics, liver function, kidney function, lung function and chronic disease prevalence.
Participants were aged 73.1 ± 15.2 years (range: 39-104), 54% female, had BMIs of 26.6 ± 4.3 kg/m2, and gait speeds of 1.0 ± 0.3 m/s. One standard deviation higher log-transformed P3NP was related to worse baseline SPPB score (β=-0.9points), gait speed (β=-0.05m/s), chair-rises per-second (β=-0.46 chair-rises/10 seconds), and grip strength (β=-2.0kg; all p<0.001). Higher P3NP was also associated with greater declines in gait speed (β=-1.41, p<.001) and transitioning to being unable to perform chair-rises (β=0.41, p<.001) after 7 years.
Plasma P3NP may be a strong, novel biomarker of current and future physical function. Future research is needed to extend our findings to other cohorts and determine mechanisms underlying these associations.

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