Equine synovial fluid small non-coding RNA signatures in early osteoarthritis

C. Castanheira*, P. Balaskas, C. Falls, Y. Ashraf-Kharaz, P. Clegg, K. Burke, Y.X. Fang, P. Dyer, T.J.M. Welting, M.J. Peffers

*Corresponding author for this work

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6 Citations (Web of Science)


Background Osteoarthritis remains one of the greatest causes of morbidity and mortality in the equine population. The inability to detect pre-clinical changes in osteoarthritis has been a significant impediment to the development of effective therapies against this disease. Synovial fluid represents a potential source of disease-specific small non-coding RNAs (sncRNAs) that could aid in the understanding of the pathogenesis of osteoarthritis. We hypothesised that early stages of osteoarthritis would alter the expression of sncRNAs, facilitating the understanding of the underlying pathogenesis and potentially provide early biomarkers. Methods Small RNA sequencing was performed using synovial fluid from the metacarpophalangeal joints of both control and early osteoarthritic horses. A group of differentially expressed sncRNAs was selected for further validation through qRT-PCR using an independent cohort of synovial fluid samples from control and early osteoarthritic horses. Bioinformatic analysis was performed in order to identify putative targets of the differentially expressed microRNAs and to explore potential associations with specific biological processes. Results Results revealed 22 differentially expressed sncRNAs including 13 microRNAs; miR-10a, miR-223, let7a, miR-99a, miR-23b, miR-378, miR-143 (and six novel microRNAs), four small nuclear RNAs; U2, U5, U11, U12, three small nucleolar RNAs; U13, snoR38, snord96, and one small cajal body-specific RNA; scarna3. Five sncRNAs were validated; miR-223 was significantly reduced in early osteoarthritis and miR-23b, let-7a-2, snord96A and snord13 were significantly upregulated. Significant cellular actions deduced by the differentially expressed microRNAs included apoptosis (P < 0.0003), necrosis (P < 0.0009), autophagy (P < 0.0007) and inflammation (P < 0.00001). A conservatively filtered list of 57 messenger RNA targets was obtained; the top biological processes associated were regulation of cell population proliferation (P < 0.000001), cellular response to chemical stimulus (P < 0.000001) and cell surface receptor signalling pathway (P < 0.000001). Conclusions Synovial fluid sncRNAs may be used as molecular biomarkers for early disease in equine osteoarthritic joints. The biological processes they regulate may play an important role in understanding early osteoarthritis pathogenesis. Characterising these dynamic molecular changes could provide novel insights on the process and mechanism of early osteoarthritis development and is critical for the development of new therapeutic approaches.
Original languageEnglish
Article number26
Number of pages12
JournalBmc Veterinary Research
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 9 Jan 2021


  • Equine
  • Osteoarthritis
  • Small non-coding RNAs
  • Synovial fluid
  • equine
  • osteoarthritis
  • small non-coding rnas
  • synovial fluid

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