BACKGROUND Cardiac troponin T (cTnT) is an acknowledged biomarker of acute myocardial infarction (AMI) that is known to be prone to proteolytic degradation in serum. Such degradation is usually explained by the action of μ-calpain, although there could be other candidates for that role. In the current study, we explored the hypothesis that thrombin-mediated cTnT cleavage occurs as a result of the serum sample preparation. METHODS cTnT degradation was studied by using immunoblotting and mass spectrometry (MS) analysis. RESULTS The comparison of cTnT isolated from AMI heparin plasma and serum samples showed that cTnT in the plasma samples was mainly present as the full-sized molecule (approximately 35 kDa), while in serum samples it was present as a 29-kDa fragment. The incubation of recombinant cTnT, or native ternary cardiac troponin complex with thrombin or in normal human serum (NHS), resulted in the formation of a 29-kDa product that was similar to that detected in AMI serum samples. No cTnT degradation was observed when thrombin or NHS was pretreated with hirudin, a specific inhibitor of thrombin, or during incubation of troponin in normal heparin plasma. When the products of thrombin-mediated cTnT proteolysis were analyzed by MS, 2 fragments consisting of amino acid residues (aar) 2-68 and 69-288 were identified, which suggests that thrombin cleaves cTnT between R68 and S69. CONCLUSIONS The results of this study suggest that the 29-kDa fragment of cTnT in AMI serum samples mainly appears due to the cleavage by thrombin during serum sample preparation.