Background: Coeliac disease (CD) is characterized by increased immunological responsiveness to ingested gliadin in genetically predisposed individuals. This genetic predisposition is not completely defined. A dysregulation of immunoglobulins (Ig) is present in CD: since antiendomysium antibodies (anti-EMA) are of the IgA class. One polymorphic enhancer within the locus control region (LCR) of the immunoglobulin heavy chain cluster at the 3' of the C alpha-1 gene was investigated. The correlation of the penetrance of the four different alleles of the HS1,2-A enhancer of the LCR-1 3' to C alpha-1 in CD patients compared to a control population was analysed.
Methods: A total of 115 consecutive CD outpatients, on a gluten-free diet, and 248 healthy donors, age- and sex-matched, from the same geographical area were enrolled in the study. HS1,2-A allele frequencies were investigated by nested polymerase chain reaction (PCR).
Results: The frequency of allele 2 of the enhancer HS1,2-A gene was increased by 30.8% as compared to the control frequency. The frequency of homozygosity for allele 2 was significantly increased in CD patients. Crude odds ratio (OR) showed that those with 2/2 and 2/4 (OR 2.63, P < 0.001 and OR 2.01, P = 0.03) have a significantly higher risk of developing the disease. In contrast, allele 1/2 may represent a protective genetic factor against CD (OR 0.52, P = 0.01).
Conclusions: These data provide further evidence of a genetic predisposition in CD. Because of the Ig dysregulation in CD, the enhancer HS1,2-A may be involved in the pathogenesis.