The autoimmune regulator (AIRE) is essential for the establishment of central tolerance and prevention of autoimmunity. Interestingly, different AIRE mutations cause autoimmunity in either recessive or dominant-negative manners. Using engineered mouse models, we establish that some monoallelic mutants, including C311Y and C446G, cause breakdown of central tolerance. By using RNAseq, ATACseq, ChIPseq, and protein analyses, we dissect the underlying mechanisms for their dominancy. Specifically, we show that recessive mutations result in a lack of AIRE protein expression, while the dominant mutations in both PHD domains augment the expression of dysfunctional AIRE with altered capacity to bind chromatin and induce gene expression. Finally, we demonstrate that enhanced AIRE expression is partially due to increased chromatin accessibility of the AIRE proximal enhancer, which serves as a docking site for AIRE binding. Therefore, our data not only elucidate why some AIRE mutations are recessive while others dominant, but also identify an autoregulatory mechanism by which AIRE negatively modulates its own expression.

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