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Cell Physiol Biochem. 2017;42(2):651-659. doi: 10.1159/000477883. Epub 2017 Jun 15.

Microarray Expression Profile of Circular RNAs in Peripheral Blood Mononuclear Cells from Rheumatoid Arthritis Patients.

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Department of Rheumatology and Immunology, Nanfang Hospital, Southern Medical University, Guangzhou, China.
Department of Medicine, Brigham and Women's Hospital and Harvard Medical School, Boston, Massachusetts, USA.



Circular RNAs (circRNAs) compose a large class of RNAs that can be used as biomarkers in clinical blood samples. This study aimed to determine the expression of circRNAs in peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMCs) from rheumatoid arthritis (RA) patients to identify novel biomarkers for RA screening.


We started with a microarray screening of circRNA changes in PBMCs from 5 RA patients and 5 healthy controls. We then confirmed the selected circRNA changes in PBMCs from 30 RA patients and 25 age- and sex-matched controls using the real-time quantitative reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction (qRT-PCR). Spearman correlation test was performed to assess the correlation of circRNAs and clinical variables. Receiver operating characteristic (ROC) curve was calculated to evaluate the diagnostic value.


We identified and verified five circRNAs (092516, 003524, 103047, 104871, 101873) that were significantly elevated in PBMCs from RA patients. Among these RA patients, we detected no significant correlation between the five circRNAs and the disease severity, including disease activity score (DAS28), erythrocyte sedimentation rate (ESR), C-reactive protein (CRP), and health assessment questionnaire (HAQ). Yet, ROC curve analysis suggested that circRNA_104871 has significant value of RA diagnosis (AUC=0.833, P<0.001), followed by circRNA_003524 (AUC = 0.683, P = 0.020), circRNA_101873 (AUC = 0.676, P = 0.026), and circRNA_103047 (AUC = 0.671, P = 0.030).


This study suggests that increased expression of circRNAs circRNA_104871, circRNA_003524, circRNA_101873 and circRNA_103047 in PBMC from RA patients may serve as potential biomarkers for RA patient diagnosis.


Circular RNAs; Microarray assay; Rheumatoid arthritis

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