Potential Diagnostic Biomarkers in Natural Killer (NK) Cells of Patients with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS)/ Myalgic Encephalomyelitis (ME)

By Robert D. Petty et al.


Background: Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS/ME) is a complex multisystem disease of unknown aetiology which causes debilitating symptoms in up to 1% of the global population. Although a large cohort of genes have been shown to exhibit altered expression in CFS/ME patients, it is currently unknown whether microRNA (miRNA) molecules which regulate gene translation contribute to disease pathogenesis. We hypothesized that changes in microRNA expression in patient leukocytes contribute to CFS/ME pathology, and may therefore represent useful diagnostic biomarkers that can be detected in the peripheral blood of CFS/ME patients.

Methods: miRNA expression in peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMC) from CFS/ME patients and healthy controls was analysed using the Ambion Bioarray V1. miRNA demonstrating differential expression were validated by qRT-PCR and then replicated in fractionated blood leukocyte subsets from an independent patient cohort. The CFS/ME associated miRNA identified by these experiments were then transfected into primary NK cells and gene expression analyses conducted to identify their gene targets.

Results: Microarray analysis identified differential expression of 34 miRNA, all of which were up-regulated. Four of the 34 miRNA had confirmed expression changes by qRT-PCR. Fractionating PBMC samples by cell type from an independent patient cohort identified changes in miRNA expression in NK-cells, B-cells and monocytes with the most significant abnormalities occurring in NK cells. Transfecting primary NK cells with hsa-miR-99b or hsa-miR-330-3p, resulted in gene expression changes consistent with NK cell activation but diminished cytotoxicity, suggesting that defective NK cell function contributes to CFS/ME pathology.

Conclusion: This study demonstrates altered microRNA expression in the peripheral blood mononuclear cells of CFS/ME patients, which are potential diagnostic biomarkers. The greatest degree of miRNA deregulation was identified in NK cells with targets consistent with cellular activation and altered effector function.

Source: Petty RD, McCarthy NE, Le Dieu R, Kerr JR (2016) MicroRNAs hsa-miR-99b, hsa-miR-330, hsa-miR-126 and hsa-miR-30c: Potential Diagnostic Biomarkers in Natural Killer (NK) Cells of Patients with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS)/ Myalgic Encephalomyelitis (ME). PLoS ONE 11(3): e0150904. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0150904

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