Circulating Small Noncoding RNA Biomarkers of Response to Triple Disease-modifying Antirheumatic Drug Therapy in White Women With Early Rheumatoid Arthritis

J Rheumatol. 2020 Dec 1;47(12):1746-1751. doi: 10.3899/jrheum.191012. Epub 2020 Jun 15.


Objective: To identify small noncoding RNA (sncRNA) serum biomarkers that predict response to triple disease-modifying antirheumatic drug (DMARD) therapy in patients with early rheumatoid arthritis (RA).

Methods: Early RA patients entered into a treat-to-target management algorithm, with triple DMARD therapy (methotrexate, sulfasalazine, hydroxychloroquine). Patients were assessed following 6 months of therapy and classified as European League Against Rheumatism responders or nonresponders. RNA was isolated from 42 archived serum samples, collected prior to commencement of triple DMARD therapy. Small RNA sequencing was performed and the reads mapped to annotations in a database of human sncRNA. Differential expression analysis was performed, comparing responders (n = 24) and nonresponders (n = 18).

Results: Pretreatment levels of 4 sncRNA were significantly increased in nonresponders: chr1. tRNA131-GlyCCC (4.1-fold, adjusted P = 0.01), chr2.tRNA13-AlaCGC (2.2-fold, adjusted P = 0.02), U2-L166 (6.6-fold, adjusted P = 0.02), and piR-35982 (2.4-fold, adjusted P = 0.03). 5S-L612 was the only sncRNA significantly increased in responders (3.3-fold; adjusted P = 0.01). Reads for chr1. tRNA131-GlyCCC and chr2.tRNA13-AlaCGC mapped to the 5' end of each tRNA gene and were truncated at the anticodon loop, consistent with these sncRNA having roles as 5' translation interfering tRNA halves (tiRNA).

Conclusion: Pretreatment levels of specific serum sncRNA might facilitate identification of patients more likely to respond to triple DMARD therapy.

Keywords: DMARD; biomarker; rheumatoid arthritis; small noncoding RNA; translation interfering tRNA halves.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't