Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) progression is associated with the balance of T-regulatory (Treg) and T-helper 17 (Th17) cells, while the role of microRNAs (miRs) in regulating Treg/Th17 cell balance has not been clarified. This study aimed to assess whether moxibustion could regulate Treg/Th17 cell balance by modulating the miR-221/suppressor of cytokine signaling 3 (SOCS3) axis in the RA mouse model.
A mouse model of collagen-induced arthritis (CIA) was established in male DBA/1J mice. Twenty-two days after CIA induction, the mice received daily treatment with moxibustion for 12 times. Pathological scores were assessed according to the levels of synovial hyperplasia. The expression levels of cytokines interleukin (IL)-1β, IL-6, tumor necrosis factor-α (TNF-α), interferon-γ (IFN-γ), IL-17 and IL-10 were analyzed in serum by enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay. The cluster of differentiation 4 (CD4+) splenocytes was analyzed by fluorescence-activated cell sorting. The expression levels of RA-related miRs and target genes were subsequently detected, and the target of miR-221 was confirmed by the dual-luciferase reporter assay.
It was revealed that moxibustion treatment decreased the pathological scores and downregulated the expression levels of IL-1β, IL-6, TNF-α, IFN-γ and IL-17, while upregulated the expression level of IL-10. The Treg/Th17 cell balance was regulated by moxibustion treatment. The expression level of miR-221 was suppressed by moxibustion treatment. Furthermore, SOCS3 was found as the direct target of miR-221, which mediated the function of moxibustion by regulating the Treg/Th17 cell balance.
Moxibustion therapy regulated the Treg/Th17 cell balance by modulating the miR-221/SOCS3 axis in the RA mouse model.