Blood cells transcriptomics as source of potential biomarkers of articular health improvement: effects of oral intake of a rooster combs extract rich in hyaluronic acid

Genes Nutr. 2014 Sep;9(5):417. doi: 10.1007/s12263-014-0417-3. Epub 2014 Jul 15.


The aim of the study was to explore peripheral blood gene expression as a source of biomarkers of joint health improvement related to glycosaminoglycan (GAG) intake in humans. Healthy individuals with joint discomfort were enrolled in a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled intervention study in humans. Subjects ate control yoghurt or yoghurt supplemented with a recently authorized novel food in Europe containing hyaluronic acid (65 %) from rooster comb (Mobilee™ as commercial name) for 90 days. Effects on functional quality-of-life parameters related to joint health were assessed. Whole-genome microarray analysis of peripheral blood samples from a subset of 20 subjects (10 placebo and 10 supplemented) collected pre- and post-intervention was performed. Mobilee™ supplementation reduced articular pain intensity and synovial effusion and improved knee muscular strength indicators as compared to placebo. About 157 coding genes were differentially expressed in blood cells between supplemented and placebo groups post-intervention, but not pre-intervention (p < 0.05; fold change ≥1.2). Among them, a reduced gene expression of glucuronidase-beta (GUSB), matrix metallopeptidase 23B (MMP23B), xylosyltransferase II (XYLT2), and heparan sulfate 6-O-sulfotransferase 1 (HS6ST1) was found in the supplemented group. Correlation analysis indicated a direct relationship between blood cell gene expression of MMP23B, involved in the breakdown of the extracellular matrix, and pain intensity, and an inverse relationship between blood cell gene expression of HS6ST1, responsible for 6-O-sulfation of heparan sulfate, and indicators of knee muscular strength. Expression levels of specific genes in blood cells, in particular genes related to GAG metabolism and extracellular matrix dynamics, are potential biomarkers of beneficial effects on articular health.