The epigenetics of autoimmunity

Francesca Meda, Marco Folci, Andrea Baccarelli, Carlo Selmi

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

113 Scopus citations

Abstract

The etiology of autoimmune diseases remains largely unknown. Concordance rates in monozygotic twins are lower than 50% while genome-wide association studies propose numerous significant associations representing only a minority of patients. These lines of evidence strongly support other complementary mechanisms involved in the regulation of genes expression ultimately causing overt autoimmunity. Alterations in the post-translational modification of histones and DNA methylation are the two major epigenetic mechanisms that may potentially cause a breakdown of immune tolerance and the perpetuation of autoimmune diseases. In recent years, several studies both in clinical settings and experimental models proposed that the epigenome may hold the key to a better understanding of autoimmunity initiation and perpetuation. More specifically, data support the impact of epigenetic changes in systemic lupus erythematosus, rheumatoid arthritis, multiple sclerosis and other autoimmune diseases, in some cases based on mechanistical observations. We herein discuss what we currently know and what we expect will come in the next future. Ultimately, epigenetic treatments already being used in oncology may soon prove beneficial also in autoimmune diseases.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)226-236
Number of pages11
JournalCellular and Molecular Immunology
Volume8
Issue number3
DOIs
StatePublished - May 2011
Externally publishedYes

Keywords

  • DNA methylation
  • histone modification
  • microRNA
  • tolerance breakdown

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Immunology and Allergy
  • Infectious Diseases
  • Immunology

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    Meda, F., Folci, M., Baccarelli, A., & Selmi, C. (2011). The epigenetics of autoimmunity. Cellular and Molecular Immunology, 8(3), 226-236. https://doi.org/10.1038/cmi.2010.78