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© 2017 Elsevier Ltd Objective To identify novel genetic and epigenetic factors associated with Myasthenia gravis (MG) using an identical twins experimental study design. Methods The transcriptome and methylome of peripheral monocytes were compared between monozygotic (MZ) twins discordant and concordant for MG, as well as with MG singletons and healthy controls, all females. Sets of differentially expressed genes and differentially methylated CpGs were validated using RT-PCR for expression and target bisulfite sequencing for methylation on additional samples. Results >100 differentially expressed genes and ∼1800 differentially methylated CpGs were detected in peripheral monocytes between MG patients and controls. Several transcripts associated with immune homeostasis and inflammation resolution were reduced in MG patients. Only a relatively few genes differed between the discordant healthy and MG co-twins, and both their expression and methylation profiles demonstrated very high similarity. Interpretation This is the first study to characterize the DNA methylation profile in MG, and the expression profile of immune cells in MZ twins with MG. Results suggest that numerous small changes in gene expression or methylation might together contribute to disease. Impaired monocyte function in MG and decreased expression of genes associated with inflammation resolution could contribute to the chronicity of the disease. Findings may serve as potential new predictive biomarkers for disease and disease activity, as well as potential future targets for therapy development. The high similarity between the healthy and the MG discordant twins, suggests that a molecular signature might precede a clinical phenotype, and that genetic predisposition may have a stronger contribution to disease than previously assumed.

Original publication




Journal article


Journal of Autoimmunity

Publication Date





62 - 73