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Epigenetic alterations and autoimmune disease

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  09 August 2011

Y. Renaudineau
Laboratory of Immunology, Brest University Medical School, CHU Morvan, Brest, France EA2216 Immunology and Pathology, IFR 148 Scin Bios, Université Européenne de Bretagne, Brest, France
D. Beauvillard
Laboratory of Immunology, Brest University Medical School, CHU Morvan, Brest, France
M. Padelli
Laboratory of Immunology, Brest University Medical School, CHU Morvan, Brest, France
W. H. Brooks
Experimental HTS, Drug Discovery Department, Mofitt Cancer Center, Tampa, FL, USA
P. Youinou
Laboratory of Immunology, Brest University Medical School, CHU Morvan, Brest, France EA2216 Immunology and Pathology, IFR 148 Scin Bios, Université Européenne de Bretagne, Brest, France


Recent advances in epigenetics have enhanced our knowledge of how environmental factors (UV radiation, drugs, infections, etc.) contribute to the development of autoimmune diseases (AID) in genetically predisposed individuals. Studies conducted in monozygotic twins discordant for AID and spontaneous autoimmune animal models have highlighted the importance of DNA methylation changes and histone modifications. Alterations in the epigenetic pattern seem to be cell specific, as CD4+ T cells and B cells are dysregulated in systemic lupus erythematosus, synovial fibroblasts in rheumatoid arthritis and cerebral cells in multiple sclerosis. With regard to lymphocytes, the control of tolerance is affected, leading to the development of autoreactive cells. Other epigenetic processes, such as the newly described miRNAs, and post-translational protein modifications may also be suspected. Altogether, a conceptual revolution is in progress, in AID, with potential new therapeutic strategies targeting epigenetic patterns.

Copyright © Cambridge University Press and the International Society for Developmental Origins of Health and Disease 2011

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