MicroRNA (miRNA), a group of short non-coding RNA of approximately 20–22 nucleotides modulating the stability and translational efficiency of target messenger RNA, present an important new layer controlling gene expression. Hundreds to a thousand miRNA have been identified and are predicted to regulate at least one-third of protein-coding transcripts in the mammalian genome. This study reviews the recent advances reinforcing the awareness that miRNA are key players in rheumatic diseases by regulating major pathogenic molecules, such as tumour necrosis factor, central signal pathways, such as type I interferon pathway and critical immunoregulatory cells, such as regulatory T cells. In animals, blockade of miRNA maturation by the deletion of Dicer or Drasha, interference with miRNA function by the mutation of Roquin and the altered expression of individual miRNA (miR-146a) or miRNA cluster (miR-17–92) all lead to the development of autoimmune diseases. Growing evidence also reveals the differential expression of certain immunity-regulating miRNA in rheumatoid patients. The features of miRNA-mediated regulation, the direction of future miRNA study in rheumatic diseases and the application of miRNA in diagnosis, therapy and prognosis will also be briefly discussed.
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Funding This study received support from the National Health and Medical Research Council (Australian Training Fellowship to DY), Cancer Institute New South Wales (Early Career Development Fellowship to DY), National Basic Research Program of China (2007CB947900 to NS), National High Technology Research and Development Program of China (2007AA02Z123 to NS), National Natural Science Foundation of China (30700734 to NS), Key Basic Program of the Shanghai Commission of Science and Technology (06JC14050, 08JC1414700 to NS), Program of Shanghai Subject Chief Scientist (07XD14021 to NS).
Competing interests None.
Provenance and Peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.
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