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BMC Infect Dis. 2020 Feb 22;20(1):165. doi: 10.1186/s12879-020-4846-x.

MicroRNA expression profiling of peripheral blood mononuclear cells associated with syphilis.

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Dermatology Hospital, Southern Medical University, Guangzhou, China.
Cancer Research Institute, School of Basic Medical Sciences, Southern Medical University, Guangzhou, China.
Yingde Center for Chronic Disease Control, Yingde, China.
Zhuhai Center Chronic Disease Control, Zhuhai, China.
Panyu Institute of Chronic Disease, Guangzhou, China.
Shenzhen Nanshan Center for Chronic Disease Control, Shenzhen, China.
Department of Microbiology, School of Public Health, Southern Medical University, Guangzhou, China.
Dermatology Hospital, Southern Medical University, Guangzhou, China.



Treponema pallidum (T. pallidum) infection evokes significant immune responses, resulting in tissue damage. The immune mechanism underlying T. pallidum infection is still unclear, although microRNAs (miRNAs) have been shown to influence immune cell function and, consequently, the generation of antibody responses during other microbe infections. However, these mechanisms are unknown for T. pallidum.


In this study, we performed a comprehensive analysis of differentially expressed miRNAs in healthy individuals, untreated patients with syphilis, patients in the serofast state, and serologically cured patients. miRNAs were profiled from the peripheral blood of patients obtained at the time of serological diagnosis. Then, both the target sequence analysis of these different miRNAs and pathway analysis were performed to identify important immune and cell signaling pathways. Quantitative reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) was performed for microRNA analysis.


A total of 74 differentially regulated miRNAs were identified. Following RT-qPCR confirmation, three miRNAs (hsa-miR-195-5p, hsa-miR-223-3p, hsa-miR-589-3p) showed significant differences in the serofast and serologically cured states (P < 0.05). One miRNA (hsa-miR-195-5p) showed significant differences between untreated patients and healthy individuals.


This is the first study of miRNA expression differences in peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMCs) in different stages of T. pallium infection. Our study suggests that the combination of three miRNAs has great potential to serve as a non-invasive biomarker of T. pallium infections, which will facilitate better diagnosis and treatment of T. pallium infections.


Peripheral blood mononuclear cells; Sexually transmitted infections; Syphilis; Treponema pallidum; microRNA profiling

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