Asthma as a paradigm for autoimmune disease

Int Arch Allergy Immunol. 2003 Nov;132(3):210-4. doi: 10.1159/000074301.


Allergy and autoimmunity result from dysregulation of the immune system. Until recently, it was generally accepted that the mechanisms that govern these disease processes are quite disparate; however, new discoveries suggest possible common pathogenetic effector pathways. This review illustrates the concomitant presentation of these conditions and the potential relationship or common mechanisms in some cases, by looking at the key elements that regulate the immune response in both asthma and autoimmune conditions: mast cells, antibodies, T cells, cytokines, and genetic determinants. The parallel appearance of asthma and autoimmune conditions in the same patients may reveal that such aberrations of the immune system have a common pathophysiologic mechanism. Mast cells, which play a key role in asthma, and the wealth of inflammatory mediators they express, make it likely that they have profound effects on many autoimmune processes. Activation of protein kinases by inflammatory cytokines and environmental stresses may contribute to both allergic and autoimmune diseases. The presence of autoantibodies in some allergic diseases suggests an autoimmune basis for these conditions. Because of the central role T cells play in immune reactivity, the T cell receptor loci have long been considered important candidates for a common disease susceptibility within the immune system such as asthma, atopy, and autoimmunity. Immunomodulation is the key to successful treatment of asthma and autoimmune conditions.

MeSH terms

  • Asthma / etiology*
  • Asthma / genetics
  • Asthma / immunology
  • Autoimmune Diseases / etiology*
  • Autoimmune Diseases / genetics
  • Autoimmune Diseases / immunology
  • Humans
  • Receptors, Antigen, T-Cell / genetics
  • T-Lymphocytes / immunology


  • Receptors, Antigen, T-Cell