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Clin Exp Rheumatol. 2016 Mar-Apr;34(2 Suppl 96):S89-98. Epub 2016 Feb 12.

Genome-wide expression profiling in the peripheral blood of patients with fibromyalgia.

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Schools of Nursing & Medicine, Oregon Health & Science University, Portland, OR, USA.
Department of Molecular and Experimental Medicine, The Scripps Research Institute, La Jolla, CA, USA.
Rho Federal Systems Division, Chapel Hill, NC, USA.
Department of Molecular and Experimental Medicine, The Scripps Research Institute, La Jolla, CA, USA.



Fibromyalgia (FM) is a common pain disorder characterized by nociceptive dysregulation. The basic biology of FM is poorly understood. Herein we have used agnostic gene expression as a potential probe for informing its underlying biology and the development of a proof-of-concept diagnostic gene expression signature.


We analyzed RNA expression in 70 FM patients and 70 healthy controls. The isolated RNA was amplified and hybridized to Affymetrix® Human Gene 1.1 ST Peg arrays. The data was analyzed using Partek Genomics Suite version 6.6.


Fibromyalgia patients exhibited a differential expression of 421 genes (p<0.001), several relevant to pathways for pain processing, such as glutamine/glutamate signaling and axonal development. There was also an upregulation of several inflammatory pathways and downregulation of pathways related to hypersensitivity and allergy. Using rigorous diagnostic modeling strategies, we show "locked" gene signatures discovered on Training and Test cohorts, that have a mean Area Under the Curve (AUC) of 0.81 on randomized, independent external data cohorts. Lastly, we identified a subset of 10 probesets that provided a diagnostic sensitivity for FM of 95% and a specificity of 96%. We also show that the signatures for FM were very specific to FM rather than common FM comorbidities.


These findings provide new insights relevant to the pathogenesis of FM, and provide several testable hypotheses that warrant further exploration and also establish the foundation for a first blood-based molecular signature in FM that needs to be validated in larger cohorts of patients.

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