Objective: To characterize the arthritis-modulating effects of 3 non-major histocompatibility complex (MHC) quantitative trait loci (QTLs) in rat experimental arthritis in the disease-resistant E3 strain, and to investigate the disease-modulating effects of the MHC region (RT1) in various genetic backgrounds.
Methods: A congenic fragment containing Ncf1 along with congenic fragments containing the strongest remaining loci, Pia5/Cia3 and Pia7/Cia13 on chromosome 4, were transferred from the arthritis-susceptible DA strain into the background of the completely resistant E3 strain. The arthritis-regulatory potential of the transferred alleles was evaluated by comparing the susceptibility to experimental arthritis in congenic rats with that in E3 rats. The RT1(u) haplotype from the E3 strain was transferred into the susceptible DA strain (RT1(av1)), and various F(1) and F(2) hybrids were generated to assess the effects of RT1 on arthritis susceptibility.
Results: The DA allele of Ncf1 did not break the arthritis resistance of the E3 rats, although it led to enhanced autoimmune B cell responses, as indicated by significantly elevated levels of anticollagen antibodies in congenic rats. Introgressing Pia5 and Pia7 loci on chromosome 4 broke the resistance to arthritis, and the MHC locus on chromosome 20 in DA rats enhanced arthritis when RT1 interacted with E3 genes.
Conclusion: The findings in these congenic lines confirm the existence of 3 major QTLs that regulate the severity of arthritis and are sufficient to induce the transformation of a completely arthritis-resistant rat strain into an arthritis-susceptible strain. This study also reveals a dramatic difference in the arthritis-regulatory potential of the rat MHC depending on genetic background, suggesting that strong epistatic interactions occur between MHC and non-MHC genes.