The Role of Epigenetics in Aging and Autoimmunity
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- Grolleau-Julius, A., Ray, D. & Yung, R.L. Clinic Rev Allerg Immunol (2010) 39: 42. doi:10.1007/s12016-009-8169-3
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The decline in immunocompetence with age is accompanied by the increase in the incidence of autoimmune diseases. Aging of the immune system, or immunosenescence, is characterized by a decline of both T and B cell function, and paradoxically the presence of low-grade chronic inflammation. There is growing evidence that epigenetics, the study of inherited changes in gene expression that are not encoded by the DNA sequence itself, changes with aging. Interestingly, emerging evidence suggests a key role for epigenetics in human pathologies, including inflammatory and neoplastic disorders. Here, we will review the potential mechanisms that contribute to the increase in autoimmune responses in aging. In particular, we will discuss how epigenetic alterations, especially DNA methylation and histone acetylation, are accumulated during aging and how these events contribute to autoimmunity risk.