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Autoimmunity and primary immunodeficiency: two sides of the same coin?

Autoimmunity and immunodeficiency were previously considered to be mutually exclusive conditions; however, increased understanding of the complex immune regulatory and signalling mechanisms involved, coupled with the application of genetic analysis, is revealing the complex relationships between primary immunodeficiency syndromes and autoimmune diseases. Single-gene defects can cause rare diseases that predominantly present with autoimmune symptoms. Such genetic defects also predispose individuals to recurrent infections (a hallmark of immunodeficiency) and can cause primary immunodeficiencies, which can also lead to immune dysregulation and autoimmunity. Moreover, risk factors for polygenic rheumatic diseases often exist in the same genes as the mutations that give rise to primary immunodeficiency syndromes. In this Review, various primary immunodeficiency syndromes are presented, along with their pathogenetic mechanisms and relationship to autoimmune diseases, in an effort to increase awareness of immunodeficiencies that occur concurrently with autoimmune diseases and to highlight the need to initiate appropriate genetic tests. The growing knowledge of various genetically determined pathologic mechanisms in patients with immunodeficiencies who have autoimmune symptoms opens up new avenues for personalized molecular therapies that could potentially treat immunodeficiency and autoimmunity at the same time, and that could be further explored in the context of autoimmune rheumatic diseases.

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