Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is a systemic, chronic autoimmune disease involving synovial inflammation and joint destruction. Lack of knowledge on RA pathogenesis hinders development of effective treatments. The aim of this study was to examine whether circular RNAs (circRNAs), which are involved in the development of other diseases, may also play a role in RA. Expression profiles of circRNAs were compared between peripheral blood lymphocytes from RA patients and healthy controls. Candidate RA-associated circRNAs were validated using RT-PCR, and interactions with target microRNAs were predicted. Analysis of circRNA microarrays identified 689 circRNAs expressed at significantly different levels between RA patients and controls (p < 0.05), of which 95 were up-regulated and 594 down-regulated in RA. Microarray analysis was corroborated by RT-PCR for hsa_circRNAs 103571, 101319, 102034, 103503 and 100257. Potential target miRNAs for hsa_circRNAs were predicted. Several circRNAs in peripheral blood lymphocytes may be differentially expressed in RA (hsa_circRNAs 103571, 101319, 102034, 103503 and 100257). These circRNAs may serve as potential targets for RA diagnosis and treatment.
Key words: Circular RNA, microarray, rheumatoid arthritis, microRNA.
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