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Trends Mol Med. 2011 Dec;17(12):714-24. doi: 10.1016/j.molmed.2011.07.005. Epub 2011 Aug 30.

Epigenetic mechanisms in systemic lupus erythematosus and other autoimmune diseases.

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Department of Medicine, Division of Rheumatology, Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, Harvard Medical School, Boston, MA 02115, USA.


The pathogenic origin of autoimmune diseases can be traced to both genetic susceptibility and epigenetic modifications arising from exposure to the environment. Epigenetic modifications influence gene expression and alter cellular functions without modifying the genomic sequence. CpG-DNA methylation, histone tail modifications and microRNAs (miRNAs) are the main epigenetic mechanisms of gene regulation. Understanding the molecular mechanisms that are involved in the pathophysiology of autoimmune diseases is essential for the introduction of effective, target-directed and tolerated therapies. In this review, we summarize recent findings that signify the importance of epigenetic modifications in autoimmune disorders while focusing on systemic lupus erythematosus. We also discuss future directions in basic research, autoimmune diagnostics and applied therapy.

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