MicroRNAs in Systemic Rheumatic Diseases

Angela Ceribelli; Bing Yao; Paul R Dominguez-Gutierrez; Md A Nahid; Minoru Satoh; Edward KL Chan


Arthritis Res Ther. 2011;13(4) 

In This Article

Abstract and Introduction


MicroRNAs (miRNAs) are endogenous, non-coding, single-stranded RNAs about 21 nucleotides in length. miRNAs have been shown to regulate gene expression and thus influence a wide range of physiological and pathological processes. Moreover, they are detected in a variety of sources, including tissues, serum, and other body fluids, such as saliva. The role of miRNAs is evident in various malignant and nonmalignant diseases, and there is accumulating evidence also for an important role of miRNAs in systemic rheumatic diseases. Abnormal expression of miRNAs has been reported in autoimmune diseases, mainly in systemic lupus erythematosus and rheumatoid arthritis. miRNAs can be aberrantly expressed even in the different stages of disease progression, allowing miRNAs to be important biomarkers, to help understand the pathogenesis of the disease, and to monitor disease activity and effects of treatment. Different groups have demonstrated a link between miRNA expression and disease activity, as in the case of renal flares in lupus patients. Moreover, miRNAs are emerging as potential targets for new therapeutic strategies of autoimmune disorders. Taken together, recent data demonstrate that miRNAs can influence mechanisms involved in the pathogenesis, relapse, and specific organ involvement of autoimmune diseases. The ultimate goal is the identification of a miRNA target or targets that could be manipulated through specific therapies, aiming at activation or inhibition of specific miRNAs responsible for the development of disease.


Since their initial discovery in 1993,[1] microRNAs (miRNAs) have been studied extensively due to their role in the regulation of almost every cellular process thus far investigated. miRNAs are noncoding RNAs about 21 nucleotides in length that function as post-transcriptional regulators of gene expression.[2] They can influence the activity of about 50% or more of all protein-coding genes in mammals,[2] and their change in expression is associated with human diseases, including infectious diseases, cancer, and rheumatic diseases.[3–5] Over 800 human miRNAs have been identified so far,[2] and they have been shown to negatively regulate protein expression through the inhibition of translation and/or decrease in mRNA stability.[6–8] It is now apparent that miRNAs can potentially regulate every aspect of cellular activity, from dierentiation and proliferation to apoptosis, and they can also modulate a large range of physiological and pathological processes.[6]


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