Multi-organic failure in the context of autoimmune diseases is a multi-factorial condition where different pathways concur to produce a global system breakdown. Some of these pathways include the coagulation, fibrinolysis, kinin and complement cascades which in normal conditions work together to provide a comprehensive response to injury. In pathologic conditions these regulatory mechanisms are replaced by positive feed-back loops. The common response pattern is the activation of the immune system via endothelium activation. Furthermore, these different plasma-driven mechanisms may induce standardised endothelial cell responses of which the most relevant are the activation of p38, JNK NF-kappa beta and IRF-3 pathways. In this paper we review the common points between these major pathways and how they become activated, contributing to a global clinical picture. We present two examples of apparently different clinical settings, caused by the same global dysfunction: the Macrophage Activation Syndrome and the iatrogenic "cytokine storm" triggered by the administration of anti-CD28 monoclonal antibody TGN1412 in a phase 1 trial. (C) 2009 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.