Joint genetic susceptibility to type 1 diabetes and autoimmune thyroiditis: from epidemiology to mechanisms

Endocr Rev. 2008 Oct;29(6):697-725. doi: 10.1210/er.2008-0015. Epub 2008 Sep 5.


Type 1 diabetes (T1D) and autoimmune thyroid diseases (AITD) frequently occur together within families and in the same individual. The co-occurrence of T1D and AITD in the same patient is one of the variants of the autoimmune polyglandular syndrome type 3 [APS3 variant (APS3v)]. Epidemiological data point to a strong genetic influence on the shared susceptibility to T1D and AITD. Recently, significant progress has been made in our understanding of the genetic association between T1D and AITD. At least three genes have been confirmed as major joint susceptibility genes for T1D and AITD: human leukocyte antigen class II, cytotoxic T-lymphocyte antigen 4 (CTLA-4), and protein tyrosine phosphatase non-receptor type 22. Moreover, the first whole genome linkage study has been recently completed, and additional genes will soon be identified. Not unexpectedly, all the joint genes for T1D and AITD identified so far are involved in immune regulation, specifically in the presentation of antigenic peptides to T cells. One of the lessons learned from the analysis of the joint susceptibility genes for T1D and AITD is that subset analysis is a key to dissecting the etiology of complex diseases. One of the best demonstrations of the power of subset analysis is the CTLA-4 gene in T1D. Although CTLA-4 showed very weak association with T1D, when analyzed in the subset of patients with both T1D and AITD, the genetic effect of CTLA-4 was significantly stronger. Gene-gene and genetic-epigenetic interactions most likely play a role in the shared genetic susceptibility to T1D and AITD. Dissecting these mechanisms will lead to a better understanding of the etiology of T1D and AITD, as well as autoimmunity in general.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 1 / epidemiology*
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 1 / genetics*
  • Genetic Predisposition to Disease / epidemiology
  • Humans
  • Thyroiditis, Autoimmune / epidemiology*
  • Thyroiditis, Autoimmune / genetics*