Functional categorization of HLA-DRB1 alleles in rheumatoid arthritis: the protective effect

Hum Immunol. 2003 Oct;64(10):930-5. doi: 10.1016/s0198-8859(03)00186-1.


Because of past recombination event, human leukocyte antigen (HLA) alleles that are not closely related in overall sequence may come to resemble each other in areas coding for peptide binding regions (PBR) of HLA molecules. Peptide binding is likely to be important for the role of HLA molecules in autoimmune disease. As a result, it has been suggested that a strategy of searching for HLA disease associations that groups alleles in functional categories based on PBR motifs may be more successful than conventional strategies based on studying different alleles. Using such functional categorization, we examined the possibility of discriminating subcategories of HLA-DRB1 alleles associated with rheumatoid arthritis (RA) in a Southern French population. HLA-DRB1 genotyping was performed by polymerase chain reaction with sequence-specific oligonucleotide hybridization or sequence-specific primers. HLA-DRB1 alleles were classified according to a functional categorization that defined seven similar subregion structures or restrictive supertype patterns (RSPs) within pocket 4 of HLA-DR peptide binding groove as the molecular basis for grouping these alleles. HLA-DRB1* RSPs "A," "De," "Q," "Dr," "E," " R," and "a" association with susceptibility or resistance to disease was then studied in 200 RA patients versus 200 controls. DRB1* RSP "A" containing the shared epitope alleles (DRB1*0101, *0102, *0401, *0404, *0405, *0408, *1001, *1402; odds ratio [OR] = 4.35; pc < 0.001) had a predisposing effect, with double-dose effect as expected, OR 6.68 (pc < 0.001). Among the six remaining RSPs, two had significantly protective effect: DRB1* RSP "De" (DRB1*0103, *0402, *1102, *1103, *1301, *1302, *1304; OR = 0.33; p(c) < 0.001), and DRB1* RSP "Q" (DRB1*0701; OR = 0.40; pc < 0.001). One had non-significantly protective effect: DRB1* RSP "Dr" (DRB1*08, *1101, *1104, *1106, *12, *1303, *16; OR = 0.68; p < 0.05, pc = not significant [NS]). Three had neutral effect: HLA-DRB1* RSPs "E" (DRB1*0403, *0407, *0901, *1401; OR = 0.71; p = NS), " R" (DRB1*0301, *0302; OR = 0.76; p = NS), and "a" (DRB1*1501, *1502; OR = 0.94; p = NS). The functional categorization allowed us to discriminate among the HLA-DRB1 alleles those that confer a predisposing effect, a neutral effect, and a protective effect in RA.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Alleles
  • Arthritis, Rheumatoid / genetics*
  • Arthritis, Rheumatoid / immunology
  • Gene Frequency
  • Genetic Predisposition to Disease*
  • HLA-DR Antigens / genetics*
  • HLA-DR Antigens / immunology
  • HLA-DRB1 Chains
  • Humans


  • HLA-DR Antigens
  • HLA-DRB1 Chains
  • HLA-DRB1*03:01 antigen