Familial autoinflammatory diseases: genetics, pathogenesis and treatment

Curr Opin Rheumatol. 2005 Sep;17(5):586-99. doi: 10.1097/bor.0000174210.78449.6b.


Purpose of review: The systemic autoinflammatory diseases are characterized by seemingly unprovoked inflammation, without major involvement of the adaptive immune system. This review focuses mainly on a subset of these illnesses, the hereditary recurrent fevers, which include familial Mediterranean fever, the tumor necrosis factor receptor-associated periodic syndrome, the hyperimmunoglobulinemia D with periodic fever syndrome, and cryopyrin-associated periodic syndromes. This review elucidates how recent advances have impacted diagnosis, pathogenesis, and treatment.

Recent findings: More than 170 mutations have been identified in the four genes underlying the six hereditary recurrent fevers. Genetic testing has broadened the clinical and geographic boundaries of these illnesses, given rise to the concept of the cryopyrin-associated periodic syndromes as a disease spectrum, and permitted diagnosis of compound heterozygotes for mutations in two different hereditary recurrent fever genes. Genetics has also advanced our understanding of amyloidosis, a complication of the hereditary recurrent fevers, and suggested a possible role for common hereditary recurrent fever variants in other inflammatory conditions. Recent advances in molecular pathophysiology include the elucidation of the N-terminal PYRIN domain in protein-protein interactions, the description of the NALP3 (cryopyrin) inflammasome as a macromolecular complex for interleukin-1beta activation, and the identification of signaling defects other than defective receptor shedding in patients with tumor necrosis factor receptor-associated periodic syndrome. These molecular insights form the conceptual basis for targeted biologic therapies.

Summary: Advances in molecular genetics extend our ability to recognize and treat patients with systemic autoinflammatory diseases and inform our understanding of the regulation of innate immunity in humans.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Autoimmune Diseases* / etiology
  • Autoimmune Diseases* / genetics
  • Autoimmune Diseases* / therapy
  • Autoimmunity / genetics*
  • Humans