HLA-DQA1 and HLA-DQB1 Alleles, Conferring Susceptibility to Celiac Disease and Type 1 Diabetes, are More Expressed Than Non-Predisposing Alleles and are Coordinately Regulated

Cells. 2019 Jul 19;8(7):751. doi: 10.3390/cells8070751.


HLA DQA1*05 and DQB1*02 alleles encoding the DQ2.5 molecule and HLA DQA1*03 and DQB1*03 alleles encoding DQ8 molecules are strongly associated with celiac disease (CD) and type 1 diabetes (T1D), two common autoimmune diseases (AD). We previously demonstrated that DQ2.5 genes showed a higher expression with respect to non-CD associated alleles in heterozygous DQ2.5 positive (HLA DR1/DR3) antigen presenting cells (APC) of CD patients. This differential expression affected the level of the encoded DQ2.5 molecules on the APC surface and established the strength of gluten-specific CD4+ T cells response. Here, we expanded the expression analysis of risk alleles in patients affected by T1D or by T1D and CD comorbidity. In agreement with previous findings, we found that DQ2.5 and DQ8 risk alleles are more expressed than non-associated alleles also in T1D patients and favor the self-antigen presentation. To investigate the mechanism causing the high expression of risk alleles, we focused on HLA DQA1*05 and DQB1*02 alleles and, by ectopic expression of a single mRNA, we modified the quantitative equilibrium among the two transcripts. After transfection of DR7/DR14 B-LCL with HLA-DQA1*05 cDNA, we observed an overexpression of the endogenous DQB1*02 allele. The DQ2.5 heterodimer synthesized was functional and able to present gluten antigens to cognate CD4+ T cells. Our results indicated that the high expression of alpha and beta transcripts, encoding for the DQ2.5 heterodimeric molecules, was strictly coordinated by a mechanism acting at a transcriptional level. These findings suggested that, in addition to the predisposing HLA-DQ genotype, also the expression of risk alleles contributed to the establishment of autoimmunity.

Keywords: autoimmunity; expression; regulation; risk genes.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Alleles
  • Antigen Presentation / genetics
  • Autoimmunity / genetics
  • Celiac Disease / genetics*
  • Celiac Disease / immunology
  • Child
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 1 / genetics*
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 1 / immunology
  • Gene Expression Regulation*
  • Genetic Predisposition to Disease
  • HLA-DQ alpha-Chains / genetics*
  • HLA-DQ beta-Chains / genetics*
  • Humans


  • HLA-DQ alpha-Chains
  • HLA-DQ beta-Chains
  • HLA-DQA1 antigen
  • HLA-DQB1 antigen