While numerous disease-modifying anti-rheumatic drugs (DMARDs) have brought about a dramatic paradigm shift in the management of rheumatoid arthritis (RA), unmet needs remain, such as the small proportion of patients who achieve drug-free status. The aim of this study was to explore key molecules for remission at the T cell level, which are known to be deeply involved in RA pathogenesis, and investigate the disease course of patients who achieved molecular remission (MR). We enrolled a total of 46 patients with RA and 10 healthy controls (HCs). We performed gene expression profiling and selected remission signature genes in CD4+ T cells and CD8+ T cells from patients with RA using machine learning methods. In addition, we investigated the benefits of achieving MR on disease control. We identified 9 and 23 genes that were associated with clinical remission in CD4+ and CD8+ T cells, respectively. Principal component analysis (PCA) demonstrated that their expression profiling was similar to those in HCs. For the remission signature genes in CD4+ T cells, the PCA result was reproduced using a validation cohort, indicating the robustness of these genes. A trend toward better disease control was observed during 12 months of follow-up in patients treated with tocilizumab in deep MR compared with those in non-deep MR, although the difference was not significant. The current study will promote our understanding of the molecular mechanisms necessary to achieve deep remission during the management of RA.
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