Autoimmunity has long been regarded as the polar opposite of immunodeficiency, but clinical and experimental evidence refute this notion. Indeed, numerous inborn or acquired immunodeficiency syndromes are characterized by the development of autoimmune complications in the setting of deficient immune defenses against microbial pathogens. Appreciation that much of the daily business of a healthy immune system is the avoidance of potentially harmful responses to innocuous environmental antigens or components of the host organism helps provide a context for these observations. In this issue of the JCI, Abt and colleagues report on purine nucleoside phosphorylase (PNP) deficiency, exploring the basis for the autoimmune complications that develop in this particular form of T cell immune deficiency and assigning a key role for overactivation of TLR7.
David A. Fox