MicroRNAs in systemic rheumatic diseases
1 Department of Oral Biology, University of Florida, 1395 Center Drive, Gainesville, Florida 32610-0424, USA
2 Division of Rheumatology and Clinical Immunology, Department of Medicine, and Department of Pathology, Immunology, and Laboratory Medicine, University of Florida, 1395 Center Drive, Gainesville, Florida 32610-0221, USA
Arthritis Research & Therapy 2011, 13:229 doi:10.1186/ar3377Published: 13 July 2011
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.