The Emerging Role of Epigenetics in Autoimmune Thyroid Diseases

Front Immunol. 2017 Apr 7;8:396. doi: 10.3389/fimmu.2017.00396. eCollection 2017.


Autoimmune thyroid diseases (AITD) are a group of both B cell- and T cell-mediated organ-specific autoimmune diseases. Graves' disease and Hashimoto thyroiditis are the two main clinical presentations of AITD. Both genetic and environmental factors have important roles in the development of AITD. Epigenetics have been considered to exert key roles in integrating those genetic and environmental factors, and epigenetic modifications caused by environmental factors may drive genetically susceptibility individuals to develop AITD. Recent studies on the epigenetics of AITD have provided some novel insights into the pathogenesis of AITD. The aim of this review is to provide an overview of recent advances in the epigenetic mechanisms of AITD, such as DNA methylation, histone modifications, and non-coding RNAs. This review highlights the key roles of epigenetics in the pathogenesis of AITD and potential clinical utility. However, the epigenetic roles in AITD are still not fully elucidated, and more researches are needed to provide further deeper insights into the roles of epigenetics in AITD and to uncover new therapeutic targets. Although there are many studies assessing the epigenetic modifications in AITD patients, the clinical utility of epigenetics in AITD remains poorly defined. More studies are needed to identify the underlying epigenetic modifications that can contribute to accurate diagnosis of AITD, adequate choice of treatment approach, and precise prediction of treatment outcomes.

Keywords: DNA methylation; autoimmune thyroid diseases; epigenetics; histone modifications; long non-coding RNAs; microRNAs; pathogenesis.

Publication types

  • Review