The role of genetics and epigenetics in the pathogenesis of systemic sclerosis

Nat Rev Rheumatol. 2014 Nov;10(11):671-81. doi: 10.1038/nrrheum.2014.128. Epub 2014 Aug 19.


Systemic sclerosis (SSc) is a complex autoimmune disease of unclear aetiology. A multitude of genetic studies, ranging from candidate-gene studies to genome-wide association studies, have identified a large number of genetic susceptibility factors for SSc and its clinical phenotypes, but the contribution of these factors to disease susceptibility is only modest. However, in an endeavour to explore how the environment might affect genetic susceptibility, epigenetic research into SSc is rapidly expanding. Orchestrated by environmental factors, epigenetic modifications can drive genetically predisposed individuals to develop autoimmunity, and are thought to represent the crossroads between the environment and genetics in SSc. Therefore, in addition to providing a comprehensive description of the current understanding of genetic susceptibility underlying SSc, this Review describes the involvement of epigenetic phenomena, including DNA methylation patterns, histone modifications and microRNAs, in SSc.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • DNA Methylation / genetics*
  • Epigenesis, Genetic / genetics*
  • Genetic Predisposition to Disease
  • Histones / metabolism*
  • Humans
  • MicroRNAs / genetics*
  • Scleroderma, Systemic / genetics*


  • Histones
  • MicroRNAs