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Pregnancy-induced gene expression changes in vivo among women with rheumatoid arthritis: a pilot study

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BACKGROUND: Little is known about gene expression changes induced by pregnancy in women with rheumatoid arthritis (RA) and healthy women because the few studies previously conducted did not have pre-pregnancy samples available as baseline. We have established a cohort of women with RA and healthy women followed prospectively from a pre-pregnancy baseline. In this study, we tested the hypothesis that pregnancy-induced changes in gene expression among women with RA who improve during pregnancy (pregDASimproved) overlap substantially with changes observed among healthy women and differ from changes observed among women with RA who worsen during pregnancy (pregDASworse).

METHODS: Global gene expression profiles were generated by RNA sequencing (RNA-seq) from 11 women with RA and 5 healthy women before pregnancy (T0) and at the third trimester (T3). Among the women with RA, eight showed an improvement in disease activity by T3, whereas three worsened. Differential expression analysis was used to identify genes demonstrating significant changes in expression within each of the RA and healthy groups (T3 vs T0), as well as between the groups at each time point. Gene set enrichment was assessed in terms of Gene Ontology processes and protein networks.

RESULTS: A total of 1296 genes were differentially expressed between T3 and T0 among the 8 pregDASimproved women, with 161 genes showing at least two-fold change (FC) in expression by T3. The majority (108 of 161 genes) were also differentially expressed among healthy women (q<0.05, FC≥2). Additionally, a small cluster of genes demonstrated contrasting changes in expression between the pregDASimproved and pregDASworse groups, all of which were inducible by type I interferon (IFN). These IFN-inducible genes were over-expressed at T3 compared to the T0 baseline among the pregDASimproved women.

CONCLUSIONS: In our pilot RNA-seq dataset, increased pregnancy-induced expression of type I IFN-inducible genes was observed among women with RA who improved during pregnancy, but not among women who worsened. These findings warrant further investigation into expression of these genes in RA pregnancy and their potential role in modulation of disease activity. These results are nevertheless preliminary and should be interpreted with caution until replicated in a larger sample.

Original languageEnglish
JournalArthritis Research and Therapy
Issue number1
Pages (from-to)104
Publication statusPublished - 25 May 2017

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    Research areas

  • Journal Article

ID: 52038070