Objective: An interaction effect for developing rheumatoid arthritis (RA) was previously observed between HLA-DRB1 shared epitope (SE) alleles and smoking. We aimed to further investigate this interaction between distinct SE alleles and smoking regarding the risk of developing RA with and without anti-citrullinated protein antibodies (ACPAs).
Methods: We used data regarding smoking habits and HLA-DRB1 genotypes from 1,319 patients and 943 controls from the Epidemiological Investigation of Rheumatoid Arthritis, in which 972 patients and 488 controls were SE positive. Subsequently, 759 patients and 328 controls were subtyped for specific alleles within the DRB1*04 group. Odds ratios with 95% confidence intervals (95% CIs) were calculated by means of logistic regression. Interaction was evaluated by calculating attributable proportion due to interaction, with 95% CIs.
Results: A strong interaction between smoking and SE alleles in the development of ACPA-positive RA was observed for all DRB1*04 SE alleles taken as a group (relative risk [RR] 8.7 [95% CI 5.7-13.1]) and for the *0401 and *0404 alleles (RR 8.9 [95% CI 5.8-13.5]) and the *01 and *10 alleles (RR 4.9 [95% CI 3.0-7.8]) as specific, separate groups, with similar strength of interaction for the different groups (attributable proportion due to interaction 0.4 [95% CI 0.2-0.6], 0.5 [95% CI 0.3-0.7], and 0.6 [95% CI 0.4-0.8], respectively).
Conclusion: There is a statistically significant interaction between distinct DRB1 SE alleles and smoking in the development of ACPA-positive RA. Interaction occurs with the *04 group as well as the *01/*10 group, demonstrating that regardless of fine specificity, all SE alleles strongly interact with smoking in conferring an increased risk of ACPA-positive RA.