Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. U.S.A. 118 (17) e2011574118 [2021-04-27; online 2021-04-22]
Multiple sclerosis (MS) is a chronic inflammatory demyelinating disease affecting the central nervous system (CNS). Small non-coding RNAs (sncRNAs) and, in particular, microRNAs (miRNAs) have frequently been associated with MS. Here, we performed a comprehensive analysis of all classes of sncRNAs in matching samples of peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMCs), plasma, cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) cells, and cell-free CSF from relapsing-remitting (RRMS, n = 12 in relapse and n = 11 in remission) patients, secondary progressive (SPMS, n = 6) MS patients, and noninflammatory and inflammatory neurological disease controls (NINDC, n = 11; INDC, n = 5). We show widespread changes in miRNAs and sncRNA-derived fragments of small nuclear, nucleolar, and transfer RNAs. In CSF cells, 133 out of 133 and 115 out of 117 differentially expressed sncRNAs were increased in RRMS relapse compared to remission and RRMS compared to NINDC, respectively. In contrast, 65 out of 67 differentially expressed PBMC sncRNAs were decreased in RRMS compared to NINDC. The striking contrast between the periphery and CNS suggests that sncRNA-mediated mechanisms, including alternative splicing, RNA degradation, and mRNA translation, regulate the transcriptome of pathogenic cells primarily in the CNS target organ.