Environmental Basis of Autoimmunity


The three common themes that underlie the induction and perpetuation of autoimmunity are genetic predisposition, environmental factors, and immune regulation. Environmental factors have gained much attention for their role in triggering autoimmunity, with increasing evidence of their influence as demonstrated by epidemiological studies, laboratory research, and animal studies. Environmental factors known to trigger and perpetuate autoimmunity include infections, gut microbiota, as well as physical and environmental agents. To address these issues, we will review major potential mechanisms that underlie autoimmunity including molecular mimicry, epitope spreading, bystander activation, polyclonal activation of B and T cells, infections, and autoinflammatory activation of innate immunity. The association of the gut microbiota on autoimmunity will be particularly highlighted by their interaction with pharmaceutical agents that may lead to organ-specific autoimmunity. Nonetheless, and we will emphasize this point, the precise mechanism of environmental influence on disease pathogenesis remains elusive

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