Multiple sclerosis (MS) is a putative T cell–mediated autoimmune disease. As with many autoimmune diseases, females are more susceptible than males. Sexual dimorphisms may be due to differences in sex hormones, sex chromosomes, or both. Regarding sex chromosome genes, a small percentage of X chromosome genes escape X inactivation and have higher expression in females (XX) compared with males (XY). Here, high-throughput gene expression analysis in CD4+ T cells showed that the top sexually dimorphic gene was Kdm6a, a histone demethylase on the X chromosome. There was higher expression of Kdm6a in females compared with males in humans and mice, and the four core genotypes (FCG) mouse model showed higher expression in XX compared with XY. Deletion of Kdm6a in CD4+ T cells ameliorated clinical disease and reduced neuropathology in the classic CD4+ T cell–mediated autoimmune disease experimental autoimmune encephalomyelitis (EAE). Global transcriptome analysis in CD4+ T cells from EAE mice with a specific deletion of Kdm6a showed upregulation of Th2 and Th1 activation pathways and downregulation of neuroinflammation signaling pathways. Together, these data demonstrate that the X escapee Kdm6a regulates multiple immune response genes, providing a mechanism for sex differences in autoimmune disease susceptibility.


Yuichiro Itoh, Lisa C. Golden, Noriko Itoh, Macy Akiyo Matsukawa, Emily Ren, Vincent Tse, Arthur P. Arnold, Rhonda R. Voskuhl


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