Introduction: The purpose of this study was to investigate the association between HLA-DRB1 alleles with susceptibility to rheumatoid arthritis (RA) and production of antibodies against citrullinated proteins (ACPA) and rheumatoid factor (RF).
Methods: We studied 408 patients (235 with RA, 173 non-RA) and 269 controls. ACPA, RF and HLA-DR typing were determined.
Results: We found an increased frequency of HLA DRB1 alleles with the shared epitope (SE) in ACPA-positive RA. Inversely, HLA DRB1 alleles encoding DERAA sequences were more frequent in controls than in ACPA-positive RA, and a similar trend was found for HLA DR3. However, these results could not be confirmed after stratification for the presence of the SE, probably due to the relatively low number of patients. These data may suggest that the presence of these alleles may confer a protective role for ACPA-positive RA. In RA patients we observed association between SE alleles and ACPA titers in a dose-dependent effect. The presence of HLA DR3 or DERAA-encoding alleles was associated with markedly reduced ACPA levels. No association between RF titers and HLA DR3 or DERAA-encoding alleles was found.
Conclusions: HLA DRB1 alleles with the SE are associated with production of ACPA. DERAA-encoding HLA-DR alleles and HLA DR3 may be protective for ACPA-positive RA.