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Reviewed August 2007

What is the official name of the AIRE gene?

The official name of this gene is “autoimmune regulator.”

AIRE is the gene's official symbol. The AIRE gene is also known by other names, listed below.

Read more about gene names and symbols on the About page.

What is the normal function of the AIRE gene?

The AIRE gene provides instructions for making a protein called the autoimmune regulator. This protein is active primarily in the thymus, which is a gland located behind the breastbone that plays an important role in immune system function. Specifically, the thymus produces infection-fighting cells called T cells.

For a person to remain healthy, immune system cells such as T cells must be able to identify and destroy potentially harmful invaders (such as bacteria and viruses) while sparing the body's normal tissues. The autoimmune regulator protein plays an important role in this process by helping T cells distinguish the body's own proteins from those of foreign invaders. When this system is working properly, it prevents the immune system from turning against itself and attacking healthy tissues by mistake. This abnormal reaction is called autoimmunity. In the thymus, the autoimmune regulator protein helps control the activity of certain genes that protect against autoimmunity.

Researchers continue to study the autoimmune regulator protein to clarify its role in autoimmunity and to determine whether it has additional functions.

Does the AIRE gene share characteristics with other genes?

The AIRE gene belongs to a family of genes called PHF (PHD-type zinc fingers).

A gene family is a group of genes that share important characteristics. Classifying individual genes into families helps researchers describe how genes are related to each other. For more information, see What are gene families? in the Handbook.

How are changes in the AIRE gene related to health conditions?

autoimmune polyglandular syndrome, type 1 - caused by mutations in the AIRE gene

More than 60 mutations in the AIRE gene have been identified in people with autoimmune polyglandular syndrome, type 1. Some of these genetic changes lead to the production of an abnormally short, nonfunctional version of the autoimmune regulator protein. Other mutations change single protein building blocks (amino acids) in critical regions of the protein.

AIRE mutations reduce or eliminate the function of the autoimmune regulator protein. Without enough of this protein, the immune system can malfunction, resulting in autoimmunity. This abnormal reaction leads to inflammation and can damage otherwise healthy cells and tissues. For reasons that are unclear, defects in the autoimmune regulator protein primarily affect hormone-producing (endocrine) glands. Damage to endocrine glands, including the adrenals, parathyroids, and thyroid, underlies many of the major features of autoimmune polyglandular syndrome, type 1.

Where is the AIRE gene located?

Cytogenetic Location: 21q22.3

Molecular Location on chromosome 21: base pairs 44,285,838 to 44,298,219

(Homo sapiens Annotation Release 107, GRCh38.p2) (NCBIThis link leads to a site outside Genetics Home Reference.)

The AIRE gene is located on the long (q) arm of chromosome 21 at position 22.3.

The AIRE gene is located on the long (q) arm of chromosome 21 at position 22.3.

More precisely, the AIRE gene is located from base pair 44,285,838 to base pair 44,298,219 on chromosome 21.

See How do geneticists indicate the location of a gene? in the Handbook.

Where can I find additional information about AIRE?

You and your healthcare professional may find the following resources about AIRE helpful.

You may also be interested in these resources, which are designed for genetics professionals and researchers.

What other names do people use for the AIRE gene or gene products?

  • AIRE1
  • APS1
  • APSI
  • Autoimmune polyendocrinopathy candidiasis ectodermal dystrophy protein
  • PGA1

Where can I find general information about genes?

The Handbook provides basic information about genetics in clear language.

These links provide additional genetics resources that may be useful.

What glossary definitions help with understanding AIRE?

acids ; adaptive immunity ; autoimmune ; autoimmune disease ; autoimmunity ; bacteria ; candidiasis ; epithelial ; gene ; hormone ; immune system ; infection ; inflammation ; protein ; syndrome ; thymus ; thyroid ; transcription ; transcription factor

You may find definitions for these and many other terms in the Genetics Home Reference Glossary.

See also Understanding Medical Terminology.

References (10 links)


The resources on this site should not be used as a substitute for professional medical care or advice. Users seeking information about a personal genetic disease, syndrome, or condition should consult with a qualified healthcare professional. See How can I find a genetics professional in my area? in the Handbook.

Reviewed: August 2007
Published: February 8, 2016