MicroRNA Expression Differences in Blood-Derived CD19+ B Cells of Methotrexate Treated Rheumatoid Arthritis Patients

Front Immunol. 2021 Apr 9:12:663736. doi: 10.3389/fimmu.2021.663736. eCollection 2021.


Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is a complex disease with a wide range of underlying susceptibility factors. Recently, dysregulation of microRNAs (miRNAs) in RA have been reported in several immune cell types from blood. However, B cells have not been studied in detail yet. Given the autoimmune nature of RA with the presence of autoantibodies, CD19+ B cells are a key cell type in RA pathogenesis and alterations in CD19+ B cell subpopulations have been observed in patient blood. Therefore, we aimed to reveal the global miRNA repertoire and to analyze miRNA expression profile differences in homogenous RA patient phenotypes in blood-derived CD19+ B cells. Small RNA sequencing was performed on CD19+ B cells of newly diagnosed untreated RA patients (n=10), successfully methotrexate (MTX) treated RA patients in remission (MTX treated RA patients, n=18) and healthy controls (n=9). The majority of miRNAs was detected across all phenotypes. However, significant expression differences between MTX treated RA patients and controls were observed for 27 miRNAs, while no significant differences were seen between the newly diagnosed patients and controls. Several of the differentially expressed miRNAs were previously found to be dysregulated in RA including miR-223-3p, miR-486-3p and miR-23a-3p. MiRNA target enrichment analysis, using the differentially expressed miRNAs and miRNA-target interactions from miRTarBase as input, revealed enriched target genes known to play important roles in B cell activation, differentiation and B cell receptor signaling, such as STAT3, PRDM1 and PTEN. Interestingly, many of those genes showed a high degree of correlated expression in CD19+ B cells in contrast to other immune cell types. Our results suggest important regulatory functions of miRNAs in blood-derived CD19+ B cells of MTX treated RA patients and motivate for future studies investigating the interactive mechanisms between miRNA and gene targets, as well as the possible predictive power of miRNAs for RA treatment response.

Keywords: CD19+ B cells; NGS; methotrexate; miRNA; microRNA; rheumatoid arthritis.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Antigens, CD19 / metabolism
  • Arthritis, Rheumatoid / drug therapy
  • Arthritis, Rheumatoid / etiology*
  • Arthritis, Rheumatoid / metabolism*
  • Arthritis, Rheumatoid / pathology
  • B-Lymphocytes / drug effects*
  • B-Lymphocytes / immunology*
  • B-Lymphocytes / metabolism*
  • Biomarkers
  • Computational Biology / methods
  • Disease Management
  • Disease Susceptibility
  • Gene Expression Profiling
  • Gene Expression Regulation / drug effects*
  • Gene Regulatory Networks
  • High-Throughput Nucleotide Sequencing
  • Humans
  • Immunosuppressive Agents / pharmacology
  • Immunosuppressive Agents / therapeutic use
  • Methotrexate / pharmacology*
  • Methotrexate / therapeutic use
  • MicroRNAs / genetics*
  • RNA Interference


  • Antigens, CD19
  • Biomarkers
  • Immunosuppressive Agents
  • MicroRNAs
  • Methotrexate