Sex differences and genomics in autoimmune diseases

J Autoimmun. 2012 May;38(2-3):J254-65. doi: 10.1016/j.jaut.2011.12.001. Epub 2011 Dec 27.


Autoimmune diseases (AIDs) are believed to be multifactorial diseases that commonly involve multiple organ systems. About three fourth of the patients afflicted with AIDs are women suggesting that sex differences impact the incidence of AID. However, the proportion of females to males suffering from AID varies depending on the disease. The response to some AID therapeutics also differs in females versus males, suggesting that enrollment of adequate numbers of women and men is important in clinical trials for development of AID drugs. It is known for a long time that genetic factors are important contributors to AID susceptibility. Currently available information suggests that multiple genes with modest association to AID contribute to susceptibility to AID. Also, the associations may differ for the various ethnicities. The major histocompatibility (MHC) locus appears to be a major genetic factor that confers susceptibility to multiple AIDs, even though the locus is complex and has the highest density of genes in the human genome. Thus, the association of different AIDs could be with different genes in the MHC locus. Among the non-MHC genes, some of the risk alleles are shared between different AIDs, but may not be common to all AIDs. For example, genetic polymorphisms in the Protein Tyrosine Phosphatase-22 (PTPN22) gene have reproducibly shown to have association with systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE), Graves' disease (GD), rheumatoid arthritis (RA) and multiple sclerosis (MS), but not with psoriasis. Identification of factors responsible for risk for developing AID and the of the pathways underlying these diseases are likely to help understand subsets of disease, identify responders to a specific treatment and develop better therapeutics for AID.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Autoimmune Diseases / epidemiology
  • Autoimmune Diseases / genetics*
  • Autoimmunity / genetics
  • Chromosomes, Human, X
  • Female
  • Genomics*
  • Humans
  • Major Histocompatibility Complex / genetics
  • Male
  • Prevalence
  • Sex Factors