Autoinflammation and autoimmunity: bridging the divide

Autoimmun Rev. 2012 Nov;12(1):22-30. doi: 10.1016/j.autrev.2012.07.018. Epub 2012 Aug 2.


As soon as autoinflammatory diseases (AIDs) emerged as new entities, they have been linked to the well known world of autoimmunity. In fact, AIDs and systemic autoimmune diseases (ADs), share some characteristics: they start with the prefix "auto" to define a pathological process directed against self; they are systemic diseases, frequently involving musculoskeletal system; both include monogenic and polygenic diseases. From the pathogenetic point of view, they are characterized by a chronic activation of immune system, which eventually leads to tissue inflammation in genetically predisposed individuals. Nevertheless, the specific effectors of the damage are different in the two groups of diseases: in AIDs the innate immune system directly causes tissue inflammation, whereas in ADs the innate immune system activates the adaptive immune system which, in turn, is responsible for the inflammatory process. Mutations in inflammasome-related proteins, particularly in NOD-like receptor (NLR) genes, have been strongly associated to the occurrence of AIDs, whereas the link between inflammasome and ADs is less clear. However, a role for this multiprotein-complex in some ADs can be postulated, since a wide spectrum of endogenous danger signals can activate NLRs and inflammasome products, including IL-1ß, can activate adaptive immunity. An association between single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) localized in the inflammasome gene NLRP1 and systemic lupus erythematosus has recently been reported. AIDs and ADs are currently subdivided into two different groups, but looking at their similarities they might be considered as a single group of diseases with a large immune pathological and clinical spectrum which includes at one end pure ADs and at the other end pure AIDs.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adaptive Immunity
  • Autoimmune Diseases / genetics
  • Autoimmune Diseases / immunology*
  • Autoimmune Diseases / pathology
  • Autoimmunity
  • Genetic Predisposition to Disease
  • Hereditary Autoinflammatory Diseases / genetics
  • Hereditary Autoinflammatory Diseases / immunology*
  • Hereditary Autoinflammatory Diseases / pathology
  • Humans
  • Immunity, Innate
  • Inflammasomes / immunology


  • Inflammasomes