Abstract: According to our concept, the development of autoimmune diseases depends on the presence of two sets of essential genes, one coding for an abnormal autoreactivity of the immune system, the other for a primary susceptibility of the target organ/structure for the immune attack. The final outcome of the disease in a given individual is then fine tuned by modulatory factors, such as diet or hormones. With regard to the latter, the immuno-endocrine interaction via the hypothalamo-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis has proven to be of special importance. Investigating the so-called Obese strain (OS) of chickens, an animal model with a spontaneously occurring Hashimoto-like autoimmune thyroiditis, we have first shown an impaired surge of glucocorticoid hormones after stimulation of the HPA axis by antigens or certain cytokines (glucocorticoid-increasing factors-GIFs). More recently, we have found a similar behavior in models with systemic autoimmune diseases, that is, murine lupus erythematosus and avian scleroderma. More detailed studies have, however, proven that the mechanisms underlying this altered immuno-endocrine communication via the HPA axis differs in different models. Finally, recent data point to the possibility that the classical pathways of glucocorticoid-T-cell interactions also take place in the thymus itself, which has been shown to be a site of steroid hormone production.