New advances of microRNAs in the pathogenesis of rheumatoid arthritis, with a focus on the crosstalk between DNA methylation and the microRNA machinery

Cell Signal. 2013 May;25(5):1118-25. doi: 10.1016/j.cellsig.2013.01.024. Epub 2013 Feb 4.


Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is a symmetrical polyarticular disease of unknown aetiology that affects primarily the articular cartilage and bone. Characteristic features of RA pathogenesis are persistent inflammation, synovium hyperplasia and cartilage erosion accompanied by joint swelling and joint destruction. Several lines of evidence have showed a crucial role of activated fibroblast-like synoviocytes (FLS) in the pathogenesis of RA. MicroRNAs (miRNAs) are endogenous, single-stranded, non-coding RNAs with about 21 nucleotides in length and have been detected in a variety of sources, including tissues, serum, and other body fluids, such as saliva. In light of key roles of miRNAs in the regulation of gene expression, miRNAs influence a wide range of physiological and pathological processes. For example, miRNAs are evident in various malignant and nonmalignant diseases, and accumulating evidence also shows that miRNAs have important roles in the pathogenesis of RA. It has been demonstrated that miRNAs can be aberrantly expressed even in the different stages of RA progression, allowing miRNAs to help understand the pathogenesis of the disease, to act as important biomarkers, and to monitor the disease severity and the effects of drug treatment. In addition, miRNAs are emerging as potential targets for new therapeutic strategies of this kind of autoimmune disorders. The ultimate goal is the identification of miRNA targets that could be manipulated through specific therapies, aiming at activation or inhibition of specific miRNAs responsible for the RA development. In this review, the importance of miRNAs in the pathogenesis of RA is discussed systematically, with particular emphasis on the role of the crosstalk between DNA methylation and the microRNA machinery.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Arthritis, Rheumatoid / genetics
  • Arthritis, Rheumatoid / metabolism
  • Arthritis, Rheumatoid / pathology*
  • DNA (Cytosine-5-)-Methyltransferases / genetics
  • DNA (Cytosine-5-)-Methyltransferases / metabolism
  • DNA Methylation
  • Humans
  • MicroRNAs / metabolism*


  • MicroRNAs
  • DNA (Cytosine-5-)-Methyltransferases