Background: The recently described interaction between smoking, human leukocyte antigen (HLA) DRB1*15 and absence of HLA-A*02 with regard to multiple sclerosis (MS) risk shows that the risk conveyed by smoking differs depending on genetic background. We aimed to investigate whether a similar interaction exists between passive smoking and HLA genotype.
Methods: We used one case-control study with incident cases of MS (736 cases, 1195 controls) and one with prevalent cases (575 cases, 373 controls). Never-smokers with different genotypes and passive smoking status were compared with regard to occurrence of MS, by calculating odds ratios (ORs) with 95% confidence intervals (CIs). The potential interaction between different genotypes and passive smoking was evaluated by calculating the attributable proportion (AP) due to interaction.
Results: An interaction was observed between passive smoking and carriage of HLA-DRB1*15 (AP 0.3, 95% CI 0.02-0.5 in the incident study, and AP 0.4, 95% CI 0.1-0.7 in the prevalent study), as well as between passive smoking and absence of HLA-A*02. Compared with non-smokers without any of these two genetic risk factors, non-exposed subjects with the two risk genotypes displayed an OR of 4.5 (95% CI 3.3-6.1) whereas the same genotype for subjects exposed to passive smoking rendered an OR of 7.7 (95% CI 5.5-10.8).
Conclusions: The risk of developing MS associated with different HLA genotypes may be influenced by exposure to passive smoking. The finding supports our hypothesis that priming of the immune response in the lungs may subsequently lead to MS in people with a genetic susceptibility to the disease.
Keywords: HLA genotype; Multiple sclerosis; case-control study; gene-environment interaction; immunology; passive smoking; smoking.
© The Author 2014; all rights reserved. Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of the International Epidemiological Association.