Immunogenetics of Disease-Causing Inflammation in Sarcoidosis

Clin Rev Allergy Immunol. 2015 Aug;49(1):19-35. doi: 10.1007/s12016-015-8477-8.


Sarcoidosis is a systemic inflammatory disorder characterised by tissue infiltration by mononuclear phagocytes and lymphocytes with associated non-caseating granuloma formation. Originally described as a disorder of the skin, sarcoidosis can involve any organ with wide-ranging clinical manifestations and disease course. Recent studies have provided new insights into the mechanisms involved in disease pathobiology, and we now know that sarcoidosis has a clear genetic basis largely involving human leukocyte antigen (HLA) genes. In contrast to Mendelian-monogenic disorders--which are generally due to specific and relatively rare mutations often leading to a single amino acid change in an encoded protein--sarcoidosis results from genetic variations relatively common in the general population and involving multiple genes, each contributing an effect of varying magnitude. However, an individual may have the necessary genetic profile and yet the disease will not develop unless an environmental or infectious factor is encountered. Genetics appears also to contribute to the huge variability in clinical phenotype and disease behaviour. Moreover, it has been established that sarcoidosis granulomatous inflammation is a highly polarized T helper 1 immune response that starts with an antigenic stimulus followed by T cell activation via a classic HLA class II-mediated pathway. A complex network of lymphocytes, macrophages, and cytokines is pivotal in the orchestration and evolution of the granulomatous process. Despite these advances, the aetiology of sarcoidosis remains elusive and its pathogenesis incompletely understood. As such, there is an urgent need for a better understanding of disease pathogenesis, which hopefully will translate into the development of truly effective therapies.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Cytokines / genetics
  • Cytokines / immunology
  • Erythema Nodosum / genetics
  • Erythema Nodosum / immunology
  • Erythema Nodosum / pathology
  • Gene Expression Regulation
  • Granuloma / genetics
  • Granuloma / immunology
  • Granuloma / pathology*
  • Histocompatibility Antigens Class II / genetics
  • Histocompatibility Antigens Class II / immunology*
  • Humans
  • Inflammation
  • Lymphatic Diseases / genetics
  • Lymphatic Diseases / immunology
  • Lymphatic Diseases / pathology
  • Macrophages / immunology
  • Macrophages / pathology*
  • Mycobacterium tuberculosis / immunology
  • Mycobacterium tuberculosis / pathogenicity
  • Phenotype
  • Propionibacterium acnes / immunology
  • Propionibacterium acnes / pathogenicity
  • Receptors, Chemokine / genetics
  • Receptors, Chemokine / immunology
  • Sarcoidosis / genetics
  • Sarcoidosis / immunology
  • Sarcoidosis / pathology*
  • Signal Transduction
  • Th1 Cells / immunology
  • Th1 Cells / pathology*


  • Cytokines
  • Histocompatibility Antigens Class II
  • Receptors, Chemokine