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The potential role of human endogenous retrovirus K10 in the pathogenesis of rheumatoid arthritis: a preliminary study


Objective: To examine whether human endogenous retrovirus K10 is associated with autoimmune rheumatic disease.

Design: A novel multiplex reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) system was developed to investigate HERV-K10 mRNA expression in patients with rheumatoid arthritis.

Methods: 40 patients with rheumatoid arthritis, 17 with osteoarthritis, and 27 healthy individuals were recruited and total RNA was extracted from peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMCs) and analysed using multiplex RT-PCR for the level of HERV-K10 gag mRNA expression. Southern blot and DNA sequencing confirmed the authenticity of the PCR products.

Results: Using the histidyl tRNA synthetase (HtRNAS) gene as a housekeeping gene in the optimised multiplex RT-PCR, a significantly higher level of HERV-K10 gag mRNA expression was found in rheumatoid arthritis than in osteoarthritis (p = 0.01) or in the healthy controls (p = 0.02).

Conclusion: There is enhanced mRNA expression of the HERV-K10 gag region in rheumatoid arthritis compared with osteoarthritis or healthy controls. This could contribute to the pathogenesis of rheumatoid arthritis.

  • HERV, human endogenous retrovirus
  • HTLV, human T cell lymphotropic virus
  • HtRNAS, histidyl tRNA synthetase
  • NSAID, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug
  • PBMC, peripheral blood mononuclear cell
  • RT-PCR, reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction
  • human endogenous retroviruses
  • rheumatoid arthritis
  • peripheral blood mononuclear cells
  • histidyl tRNA synthetase

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