The novel microRNA (miRNA) biomarkers miR-124-3p and miR-377-3p may represent potential markers of systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) in plasma, according to study results published in Clinical Biochemistry.   

Clinical data derived from 50 patients with SLE and 47 healthy control participants were obtained from the Rheumatology and Immunology Department at the Second Affiliated Hospital of Chongqing Medical University in Chongqing, China. All of the patients with SLE fulfilled the diagnostic classification criteria of the American College of Rheumatology. Among the 50 patients with SLE, 43 received treatment with corticosteroids and 7 did not receive any treatment.

Expression of miR-124-3p and miR-377-3p in peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMCs) and serum were established with the use of quantitative reverse-transcription polymerase chain reaction. Additional analyses were performed to study the associations between these miRNA biomarkers and clinically relevant indicators. Receiver operating characteristic (ROC) curves and area under the ROC curves (AUCs) were utilized to authenticate the diagnostic value of miR-124-3p and miR-377-3p.

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Results of the study demonstrated that the expression of miR-124-3p and miR-377-3p was upregulated significantly in PBMCs and serum from patients with SLE compared with control participants (P <.05). According to ROC curve analysis, plasma miR-124-3p and miR-377-3p were candidate diagnostic biomarkers for SLE, with AUCs of 0.714 (95% CI, 0.610-0.820; P <.05) and 0.705 (95% CI, 0.600-0.809; P <.05), respectively.

Additional study results showed that the combined diagnostic efficiency of miR-124-3p and miR-377-3p was higher than the diagnostic efficiency of miR-124-3p or miR-377-3p alone. The AUCs for miR-124-3p and miR-377-3p in plasma were higher than the AUCs in PBMCs.

Plasma miR-124-3p expression was positively correlated with erythrocyte sedimentation rate (r= 0.335; P <.05), moderately positively correlated with C3 (r= 0.466; P <.05) and C4 (r= 0.481; P <.05), and slightly positively correlated with anti-C1q (r= 0.388; P <.05).

The data also disclosed a moderately positive correlation between plasma miR-377-3p and antinuclear antibody, including anti-Ro52 (r= 0.386; P <.05), anti-SSA (r= 0.333; P <.05), and anti-Histone (r= 0.496; P <.05). No positive correlation was noted, however, between the 2 miRNAs and anti-dsDNA.

Per binary logistic regression analysis, it was shown that the expression of miR-377-3p was an independent predictor of SLE, and plasma miR-124-3p was independently associated with the remission rate of SLE.

Limitations of the study included the fact that the number of cases was not large enough to fully reflect all biochemical and cellular characteristics in all participants. Thus, additional cases are needed to verify the current results. Specific mechanisms underlying the actions of miR-124-3p and miR-377-3p in patients with SLE also warrant additional investigation.

The study authors concluded that the “circulating of miR-124-3p and miR-377 may constitute promising biomarkers for the diagnosis of SLE.”

Disclosure: None of the study authors has declared affiliations with biotech, pharmaceutical, and/or device companies.  


Yan L, Jiang L, Wang B, et al. Novel microRNA biomarkers of systemic lupus erythematosus in plasma: miR-124-3p and miR-377-3p. Clin Biochem. Published online May 19, 2022. doi:10.1016/j.clinbiochem.2022.05.004

This article originally appeared on Rheumatology Advisor