MHC Class II Risk Alleles and Amino Acid Residues in Idiopathic Membranous Nephropathy

J Am Soc Nephrol. 2017 May;28(5):1651-1664. doi: 10.1681/ASN.2016020114. Epub 2016 Nov 16.


Epitopes of phospholipase A2 receptor (PLA2R), the target antigen in idiopathic membranous nephropathy (iMN), must be presented by the HLA-encoded MHC class II molecules to stimulate autoantibody production. A genome-wide association study identified risk alleles at HLA and PLA2R loci, with the top variant rs2187668 within HLA-DQA1 showing a risk effect greater than that of the top variant rs4664308 within PLA2R1. How the HLA risk alleles affect epitope presentation by MHC class II molecules in iMN is unknown. Here, we genotyped 261 patients with iMN and 599 healthy controls at the HLA-DRB1, HLA-DQA1, HLA-DQB1, and HLA-DPB1 loci with four-digit resolution and extracted the encoded amino acid sequences from the IMGT/HLA database. We predicted T cell epitopes of PLA2R and constructed MHC-DR molecule-PLA2R peptide-T cell receptor structures using Modeler. We identified DRB1*1501 (odds ratio, 4.65; 95% confidence interval [95% CI], 3.39 to 6.41; P<0.001) and DRB1*0301 (odds ratio, 3.96; 95% CI, 2.61 to 6.05; P<0.001) as independent risk alleles for iMN and associated with circulating anti-PLA2R antibodies. Strong gene-gene interaction was noted between rs4664308(AA) and HLA-DRB1*1501/DRB1*0301. Amino acid positions 13 (P<0.001) and 71 (P<0.001) in the MHC-DRβ1 chain independently associated with iMN. Structural models showed that arginine13 and alanine71, encoded by DRB1*1501, and lysine71, encoded by DRB1*0301, facilitate interactions with T cell epitopes of PLA2R. In conclusion, we identified two risk alleles of HLA class II genes and three amino acid residues on positions 13 and 71 of the MHC-DRβ1 chain that may confer susceptibility to iMN by presenting T cell epitopes on PLA2R.

Keywords: gene expression; immunology; membranous nephropathy.

MeSH terms

  • Alleles*
  • Amino Acids / physiology*
  • Genes, MHC Class II / physiology*
  • Glomerulonephritis, Membranous / genetics*
  • Glomerulonephritis, Membranous / immunology*
  • HLA-DR Antigens / physiology
  • Humans
  • Receptors, Phospholipase A2 / physiology
  • Risk Factors


  • Amino Acids
  • HLA-DR Antigens
  • Receptors, Phospholipase A2