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ABSTRACT: The purpose of the review is to consider pathomechanisms of Sjögren's syndrome (SS), which could explain the female dominance (9:1), the most common age of onset (40-50 years) and targeting of the exocrine glands. Estrogens seem to specifically protect secretory glandular acinar cells against apoptosis whereas lack of estrogens during menopause and climacterium specifically leads to increased apoptosis of the exocrine secretory cells. Male gonads produce testosterone and convert it in exocrine glands to dihydrotesterosterone (DHT), which is anti-apoptotic and protects against acinar cell apoptosis. Estrogen-deficient women need to produce dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA) in the adrenal glands and convert it to DHT in exocrine glands in a complex and branching reaction network in which individual enzymatic reactions are catalyzed in forward and backward directions by a myriad of different isoforms of steroidogenic enzymes. Tailoring DHT in peripheral tissues is much more complex and vulnerable in women than in men. In SS the intracrine steroidogenic enzyme machinery is deranged. These endo-/intracrine changes impair acinar remodeling due to impaired integrin α1β1 and integrin α2β1 expression so that the intercalated duct progenitor cells are unable to migrate to the acinar space, to differentiate to secretory acinar cells upon contact with laminin-111 and laminin-211 specifically found in the acinar basement membrane. The disarranged endo-/intracrine estrogen/androgen balance induces acinar cells to release microparticles and apoptotic bodies and to undergo apoptotis and/or anoikis. Membrane particles contain potential autoantigens recognized by T- (TCRs) and B-cell receptors (BCRs) and danger-associated molecular patterns (DAMPs) recognized by Toll-like receptors (TLRs). In membrane particles (or carrier-complexes) antigen/adjuvant complexes could stimulate professional antigen capturing, processing and presenting cells, which can initiate auto-inflammatory and autoimmune cascades, break the self-tolerance and finally lead to SS.
Journal of Autoimmunity 01/2012; 39(1-2):49-56. · 7.02 Impact Factor