MicroRNAs (miRNAs) are involved in the post-transcriptional regulation of genes. The objective of this study was to investigate whether select urinary cell-free microRNA's may serve as biomarkers in children with active lupus nephritis (LN) and to assess their relationship to the recently identified combinatorial urine biomarkers, a.k.a. the LN-Panel (neutrophil gelatinase associated lipocalin, monocyte chemotactic protein 1, transferrin, and beta-trace protein).
miRNAs (125a, 127, 146a, 150 and 155) were measured using real-time polymerase chain reaction in the urine pellet (PEL) and supernatant (SUP) in 14 patients with active LN, 10 patients with active extra-renal lupus, and 10 controls. The concentrations of the LN-Panel biomarkers (neutrophil gelatinase associated lipocalin, monocyte chemotactic protein-1, transferrin, beta-trace protein) was assayed. Traditional laboratory and clinical measures of LN and lupus (complements, protein to creatinine ratio; Systemic Lupus Erythematosus Disease Activity Index) were also measured.
All tested miRNAs in the SUP, but not the PEL, were associated with the LN-Panel biomarkers (0.3 < |r Pearson| < 0.73; p < 0.05), miRNA125a, miRNA127,miRNA146a also with C3 and dsDNA antibody levels (|r Pearson| > 0.24; p < 0.05), and miRNA146a with the renal domain of the SLEDAI (|r Pearson| = 0.32; p < 0.05). Mean miRNA levels of patients with active LN did not statistically (P > 0.05) differ from those of SLE patients without LN or controls.
Levels of cell-free miR-125a, miR-150, and miR-155 in the urine supernatant are associated with the expression of LN-Panel biomarkers and some LN measures. These miRNA's may complement, but are unlikely superior to the LN-Panel for estimating concurrent LN activity.