Circulating MicroRNAs Highly Correlate to Expression of Cartilage Genes Potentially Reflecting OA Susceptibility—Towards Identification of Applicable Early OA Biomarkers | Biomolecules| 13-09-2021 | 

Yolande F. M. Ramos, Rodrigo Coutinho de Almeida, Nico Lakenberg, H. Eka D. Suchiman, Hailiang Mei, Margreet Kloppenburg, Rob G. H. H. Nelissen and Ingrid Meulenbelt

To identify and validate circulating micro RNAs (miRNAs) that mark gene expression changes in articular cartilage early in osteoarthritis (OA) pathophysiology process. Methods: Within the ongoing RAAK study, human preserved OA cartilage and plasma (N = 22 paired samples) was collected for RNA sequencing (respectively mRNA and miRNA). Spearman correlation was determined for 114 cartilage genes consistently and significantly differentially expressed early in osteoarthritis and 384 plasma miRNAs. Subsequently, the minimal number of circulating miRNAs serving to discriminate between progressors and non-progressors was assessed by regression analysis and area under receiver operating curves (AUC) was calculated with progression data and plasma miRNA sequencing from the GARP study (N = 71). Results: We identified strong correlations (ρ ≥ |0.7|) among expression levels of 34 unique plasma miRNAs and 21 genes, including 4 genes that correlated with multiple miRNAs. The strongest correlation was between let-7d-5p and EGFLAM (ρ = −0.75, P = 6.9 × 10−5). Regression analysis of the 34 miRNAs resulted in a set of 7 miRNAs that, when applied to the GARP study, demonstrated clinically relevant predictive value
with AUC > 0.8 for OA progression over 2 years and near-clinical value for progression over 5 years-(AUC = 0.8). Conclusions: We show that plasma miRNAs levels reflect gene expression levels in cartilage and can be exploited to represent ongoing pathophysiological processes in articular cartilage. We advocate that identified signature of 7 plasma miRNAs can contribute to direct further studies toward early biomarkers predictive for progression of osteoarthritis over 2 and 5 years.
Keywords: circulating microRNAs; osteoarthritis; biomarker

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