Key Laboratory of Ministry of Education for Conservation and Utilization of Special Biological Resources in the Western, and College of Life Science, Ningxia University, Yinchuan, Ningxia 750021, China; Department of Anatomy and Cell Biology, Carver College of Medicine, University of Iowa, Iowa City, IA 52242, USA. Electronic address: [Email]
An early diagnosis of interstitial lung disease (ILD) is important for guiding treatments of rheumatoid arthritis (RA)-associated ILD (RA-ILD) in clinical settings. The non-canonical Wnt signaling representative ligand Wnt5a was recently found to involve in idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (IPF) and pathogenesis of RA. The goal of this study was to examine the clinical relevance of Wnt5a in RA-ILD. In this report, the clinical relevance of plasma Wnt5a protein was evaluated in 40 RA-ILD patients and 41 non-ILD RA cohorts. The results showed an elevated Wnt5a protein in plasmas of RA-ILD patients compared with non-ILD RA patients (p < 0.01), which was positively correlated with the plasma level of rheumatoid factor (RF). Of note, more abundant Wnt5a was also found in patients with usual interstitial pneumonia (UIP) than those with nonspecific interstitial pneumonia (NSIP) and other ILD patterns. More importantly, the disease severity was correlated with the circulating Wnt5a as ascertained by high-resolution computed tomography (HRCT)-UIP scores. The multiple-factor non-conditional logistic regression analysis further revealed that the age, RA duration, smoking and plasma Wnt5a were risk factors with clinical significance for RA-ILD. Interestingly, more Wnt5a-positive patients were identified in RA-ILD smokers relative to RA-ILD never-smokers, and longer smoking duration was strongly correlated with Wnt5a in RA-ILD patients. In consistence, ROC curve also suggested that the Wnt5a was a potential candidate biomarker for identifying patients with RA-UIP. These results demonstrate that the circulating Wnt5a may be a risk factor and potential biomarker for identifying UIP and accessing the severity and progression of ILD in RA patients.