Genetics of Sex Differences in Immunity

Shani T. Gal-Oz, Tal Shay

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review


Women have a stronger immune response and a higher frequency of most autoimmune diseases than men. While much of the difference between men and women is due to the effect of gonadal hormones, genetic differences play a major role in the difference between the immune response and disease frequencies in women and men. Here, we focus on the immune differences between the sexes that are not downstream of the gonadal hormones. These differences include the gene content of the sex chromosomes, the inactivation of chromosome X in women, the consequences of non-random X inactivation and escape from inactivation, and the states that are uniquely met by the immune system of women—pregnancy, birth, and breast feeding. While these female-specific states are temporary and involve gonadal hormonal changes, they may leave a long-lasting footprint on the health of women, for example, by fetal cells that remain in the mother’s body for decades. We also briefly discuss the immune phenotype of congenital sex chromosomal aberrations and experimental models that enable hormonal and the non-hormonal effects of the sex chromosomes to be disentangled. The increasing human life expectancy lengthens the period during which gonadal hormones levels are reduced in both sexes. A better understanding of the non-hormonal effects of sex chromosomes thus becomes more important for improving the life quality during that period.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationCurrent Topics in Microbiology and Immunology
PublisherSpringer Science and Business Media Deutschland GmbH
Number of pages19
StatePublished - 1 Jan 2023

Publication series

NameCurrent Topics in Microbiology and Immunology
ISSN (Print)0070-217X
ISSN (Electronic)2196-9965


  • Chromosome X inactivation
  • Fetal microchimerism
  • Immune sexual dimorphism
  • Sex chromosome aberrations
  • Sex chromosomes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Microbiology (medical)
  • Immunology and Allergy
  • Microbiology
  • Immunology


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