The role of circulating miR-146a in patients with rheumatoid arthritis treated by Tripterygium wilfordii Hook F

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Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is polygenic autoimmune disease with unclear etiology. MicroRNAs (miRNAs) play a critical role in the pathogenesis of RA. The objective of this study was to evaluate the role of miR-146a in patients with RA receiving Tripterygium wilfordii Hook F (TwHF) treatment.

In total, 69 patients with RA and 69 healthy controls (HC) were included in the study, and patients with RA received TwHF treatment for 24 weeks. Blood samples were collected from RA patients and HC, and peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMCs) were isolated. Expression of miR-146a was analyzed in RA patients (baseline, 12 weeks and 24 weeks) and HC.

Circulating miR-146a expression was markedly increased in patients with RA compared with healthy controls (P < .001), ROC analysis of miR-146a for diagnosis for RA showed that the AUC was 0.908 (95% CI: 0.862–0.955) with a sensitivity of 87.0% and a specificity of 82.6% at best cutoff. And miR-146a expression was positively associated with the DAS28 score and CRP level (P = .002 and P = .019). Moreover, miR-146a expression was markedly reduced after TwHF therapy (P < .001), and baseline miR-146a level was observed to present an increased tendency in responders compared with non-responders at 24 weeks (P = .066).

Our study presented that circulating miR-146a level was correlated with risk and disease activity of RA patients by TwHF treatment, which could strikingly decrease expression of miR-146a in RA patients, and miR-146a may have a value in predicting clinical response of TwHF treatment. It indicates that circulating miR-146a plays a prominent role in RA patients treated by TwHF.

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