Objective: The effect of non-shared epitope HLA-DRB1 alleles on rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is poorly understood. This study was undertaken to investigate the effects of several HLA-DRB1 alleles, independent of the shared epitope, on the risk of developing anti-citrullinated protein antibody (ACPA)-positive or ACPA-negative RA in a large case-control study.
Methods: HLA typing for the DRB1 gene was performed in 1,352 patients with RA and 922 controls from the Swedish Epidemiological Investigation of Rheumatoid Arthritis study. Relative risks (RRs) and 95% confidence intervals (95% CIs) were calculated.
Results: DRB1*13 was found to protect against ACPA-positive RA when stratifying for the shared epitope and using a dominant genetic model (RR 0.41 [95% CI 0.26-0.64]). Furthermore, DRB1*13 neutralized the effect of the shared epitope in ACPA-positive RA (RR 3.91 [95% CI 3.04-5.02] in patients who had the shared epitope but not DRB1*13, and RR 1.22 [95% CI 0.81-1.83] in patients with both the shared epitope and DRB1*13, as compared with patients negative for both the shared epitope and DRB1*13). However, we did not replicate the previous published risk of ACPA-negative RA conferred by DRB1*03 when a dominant genetic model was used (RR 1.29 [95% CI 0.91-1.82]). Similarly, no significant effect of DRB1*03 on RR for ACPA-negative RA was seen using the recessive genetic model (RR 1.18 [95% CI 0.6-2.4]). In contrast, the combination of DRB1*03 and DRB1*13 was significantly associated with increased risk of developing ACPA-negative RA (RR 2.07 [95% CI 1.17-3.67]).
Conclusion: Our findings indicate that the DRB1*13 allele plays a dual role in the development of RA, by protecting against ACPA-positive RA but, in combination with DRB1*03, increasing the risk of ACPA-negative RA.