Autoimmune diseases are either tissue-specific like multiple sclerosis (MS) or multisystemic like systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE), although clinically both exhibit common features. To gain insight into the properties of the genes involved in each disease we have investigated the gene expression signature of peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMC) in MS and SLE in comparison to healthy subjects. Total RNA was purified, hybridized to Genechip array and analysed in 36 subjects (13 relapsing-remitting MS patients, five SLE patients and 18 age-matched healthy subjects that served as controls). Additional blood samples from 15 relapsing-remitting MS patients, 8 SLE patients and 10 healthy subjects were used for confirmation of microarray gene expression findings by ELISA and RT-PCR. MS and SLE patients demonstrated a common gene expression autoimmune signature of 541 genes which differentiated them from healthy subjects. The autoimmune signature included genes that encode proteins involved in apoptosis, cell cycle, inflammation and regulation of matrix metalloproteinase pathways. Specifically, decreased TIMP1 gene expression in the autoimmunity signature suggests increased MMP activity in target tissues as a result of the lack of feedback mechanism. An additional different disease specific signature identified the gene expression pattern for MS (1031 genes), mainly associated with over-expression of adhesion molecules and down-expression of heat shock proteins; the SLE specific signature (1146 genes) mainly involved DNA damage/repair pathways that result in production of nuclear autoantibodies. These results provide insights into the genetic pathways underlying autoimmune diseases, and identify specific disease-associated signatures that may enable targetted disease-related specific therapies to be developed.