Linking genetic susceptibility and T cell activation in beryllium-induced disease

Proc Am Thorac Soc. 2010 May;7(2):126-9. doi: 10.1513/pats.201002-022RM.


Chronic beryllium disease (CBD) is a granulomatous lung disorder caused by beryllium (Be) exposure in the workplace. It is characterized by the accumulation of Be-specific CD4(+) T cells in the lung as well as persistent lung inflammation, culminating in the development of lung fibrosis. CBD occurs in 2 to 16% of Be-exposed workers depending on the individuals' genetic susceptibility and the characteristics of the exposure. Genetic susceptibility to Be-induced disease has been linked to major histocompatibility complex class II molecules. In particular, HLA-DP alleles possessing a glutamic acid at the 69th position of the beta-chain (betaGlu69) are most strongly linked to disease susceptibility. The HLA-DP alleles that present Be to T cells match those implicated in the genetic susceptibility, suggesting that the HLA contribution to disease is based on the ability of those molecules to bind and present Be to T cells. However, the structural features of betaGlu69-containing HLA-DP molecules that explain the disease association remain unknown. We have recently crystallized HLA-DP2, which is the most prevalent of the betaGlu69-containing HLA-DP molecules. Its unique structure, which includes surface exposure of betaGlu69, provides an explanation of the genetic linkage between betaGlu69-containing HLA-DP alleles and Be-induced disease.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Berylliosis / genetics*
  • Berylliosis / immunology*
  • Beryllium / adverse effects*
  • CD4-Positive T-Lymphocytes / physiology
  • Genetic Predisposition to Disease*
  • HLA-DP Antigens / physiology*
  • HLA-DP beta-Chains
  • Humans
  • Lymphocyte Activation / physiology*


  • HLA-DP Antigens
  • HLA-DP beta-Chains
  • HLA-DPw2 antigen
  • Beryllium