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Logo of bttDove Medical PressThis ArticleSubscribeSubmit a ManuscriptSearchFollowDovepressBiologics: Targets and Therapy
Biologics. 2012; 6: 307–327.
Published online Sep 6, 2012. doi:  10.2147/BTT.S24067
PMCID: PMC3459549
The role of epigenetic mechanisms and processes in autoimmune disorders
Judith M Greer and Pamela A McCombe
The University of Queensland, UQ Centre for Clinical Research, Brisbane, Queensland, Australia
Correspondence: Judith M Greer, UQ Centre for Clinical Research, Bldg 71/918 Royal Brisbane and Women’s Hospital, Herston, Brisbane QLD 4029, Australia, Tel +61 7 3346 6018, Email j.greer/at/
Received September 5, 2012
The lack of complete concordance of autoimmune disease in identical twins suggests that nongenetic factors play a major role in determining disease susceptibility. In this review, we consider how epigenetic mechanisms could affect the immune system and effector mechanisms in autoimmunity and/or the target organ of autoimmunity and thus affect the development of autoimmune diseases. We also consider the types of stimuli that lead to epigenetic modifications and how these relate to the epidemiology of autoimmune diseases and the biological pathways operative in different autoimmune diseases. Increasing our knowledge of these epigenetic mechanisms and processes will increase the prospects for controlling or preventing autoimmune diseases in the future through the use of drugs that target the epigenetic pathways.
Keywords: twins, concordance, autoimmune disease, nongenetic factors, immune system, epigenetic modifications
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