Epigenomic deregulation in the immune system

Epigenomics. 2011 Dec;3(6):697-713. doi: 10.2217/epi.11.99.


Proper immune function is the result of multiple cell commitment and differentiation steps, and adequate control of activation mechanisms. Deregulation of transcriptional programs in immune cells leads to the development of hematological malignancies, autoimmune diseases or immunodeficiencies. In this sense, epigenetic control of gene expression plays an essential role in the correct function of the immune system and the integrity of identity of relevant cell types. Epigenetic deregulation can result as a consequence of genetic changes in transcription factors, elements of signaling pathways or epigenetic enzymes, or as an effect of a variety of environmental factors. On top of genetic predisposition, viral infection and other external factors influence the development of immune-related diseases. In recent years, major strides have been made towards understanding the contribution of genetics in these immune disorders. Less progress has been made in dissecting the contribution of epigenetic factors in their etiology. Herein, it is presented what is currently known about epigenetic alterations in immune system associated disorders. It is also discussed how epigenomic analysis can help to understand the molecular basis of these diseases and how this information can be used in the clinical setting.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Chromatin / metabolism*
  • DNA (Cytosine-5-)-Methyltransferases / genetics
  • DNA Methylation / physiology*
  • Epigenesis, Genetic / immunology*
  • Epigenesis, Genetic / physiology
  • Epstein-Barr Virus Infections / immunology
  • Epstein-Barr Virus Infections / metabolism
  • HIV Infections / immunology
  • HIV Infections / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Immune System Diseases / genetics*
  • Immune System Diseases / physiopathology*
  • Immune System Diseases / virology
  • Lymphocytes / virology
  • Models, Immunological*
  • Mutation / genetics


  • Chromatin
  • DNA (Cytosine-5-)-Methyltransferases
  • DNA methyltransferase 3B