Nadine Dragin, researcher among an Inserm/UPMC/CNRS (French National Center for Scientific Research)/Institute of Myology team co-directed by Sonia Berrih-Aknin and Rozen le Panse from the Institute of Myology, based in the Pitié-Salpêtrière Hospital, AP-HP, brought to light the central role of AIRE, a key factor for immune tolerance, in the gender inequality regarding autoimmune diseases.
To prove this inequality, the researchers from the Institute of Myology looked into the mechanisms of thymic tolerance, meaning a state of immune non-response while facing an antigen. The research teams then observed that Auto-Immune Regulator (AIRE), key factor in the immune tolerance, is less expressed for women than for men. Moreover, the researchers showed that estrogen was the hormone responsible for the decrease of the AIRE expression in thymic cells.
This set of results reveals that, for women, estrogen leads to changes in the AIRE gene expression, thus increasing women’s susceptibility to autoimmune diseases. Therefore, the AIRE expression levels can indicate a predisposition to an autoimmune disease and turn the estrogen level into a potential therapeutic target.