Case for Higher Autoimmune Disease Prevalence in Women Discovered

May 3rd 2019

A molecular switch in the skin cells may cause increased susceptibility to autoimmunity in women.

Women are 4 times more likely to develop autoimmune disease than men. In systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE), the prevalence of the disease is 9 times higher among women; however, the cause of this disparity is largely unknown, a recent study indicates.

The study, published in JCI Insight, examined the potential mechanisms promoting increased likelihood of autoimmunity in women as opposed to men. The study pointed to a skin-targeted overexpression of the female-biased transcription cofactor vestigial like family member 3 (VGLL3) as a potential contributor to autoimmunity. Previous research has indicated that women have more VGLL3 in their skin cells than men.

According to the study, the researchers found that in mice, having too much VGLL3 in skin cells promoted an autoimmune response that extended beyond the skin. In the mouse model, overexpression of VGLL3 drove an autoimmunity-prone transcriptional signature similar to that observed in female skin, causing inflammation and activation of type I IFN signaling that mimics cutaneous lupus, according to the researchers.

Additionally, the researchers noted that extra VGLL3 in the skin cells appeared to change expression levels of a number of genes important to the immune system, including many of the same genes altered in autoimmune diseases. In mice with excess VGLL3, their skin became scaly and raw and they produced antibodies against their own tissues.

This article was originally published inSpecialty Pharmacy Times.

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