The association between immunodeficiency and the development of autoimmune disease

Adv Dent Res. 1996 Apr;10(1):57-61. doi: 10.1177/08959374960100011101.


There is a paradoxical relationship between immunodeficiency diseases and autoimmunity. While not all individuals with immunodeficiency develop autoimmunity, nor are all individuals with autoimmunity immunodeficient, defects within certain components of the immune system carry a high risk for the development of autoimmune disease. Inherited deficiencies of the complement system have a high incidence of systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE), glomerulonephritis, and vasculitis. Carrier mothers of children with chronic granulomatous disease, an X-linked defect of phagocytosis, often develop discoid lupus. Several antibody deficiencies are associated with autoimmune disease. Autoimmune cytopenias are commonly observed in individuals with selective IgA deficiency and common variable immune deficiency. Polyarticular arthritis can be seen in children with X-linked agammaglobulinemia. Combined cellular and antibody deficiencies, such as Wiskott-Aldrich syndrome, carry an increased risk for juvenile rheumatoid arthritis and autoimmune hemolytic anemia. Several hypothetical mechanisms have been proposed to explain the associations between autoimmunity and immunodeficiency. Immunologic defects may result in a failure to exclude microbial antigens, resulting in chronic immunologic activation and autoimmune symptoms. There may be shared genetic factors, such as common HLA alleles, which predispose an individual to both autoimmunity and immunodeficiency. Defects within one component of the immune system may alter the way a pathogen induces an immune response and lead to an inflammatory response directed at self-antigens. An understanding of the immunologic defects that contribute to the development of autoimmunity will provide an insight into the pathogenesis of the autoimmune process.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Antibodies / immunology
  • Autoimmune Diseases / etiology*
  • Autoimmune Diseases / immunology*
  • Autoimmunity*
  • Bacterial Infections / complications
  • Chronic Disease
  • Complement System Proteins / immunology
  • Female
  • HLA Antigens / genetics
  • Humans
  • Immunologic Deficiency Syndromes / complications*
  • Immunologic Deficiency Syndromes / immunology*
  • Infections / complications
  • Male
  • Recurrence
  • T-Lymphocytes / immunology


  • Antibodies
  • HLA Antigens
  • Complement System Proteins