Assessing the role of HLA-linked and unlinked determinants of disease

Am J Hum Genet. 1987 Jan;40(1):1-14.


The relationship between increased risk in relatives over population prevalence (lambda R = KR/K) and probability of sharing zero marker alleles identical by descent (ibd) at a linked locus (such as HLA) by an affected relative pair is examined. For a model assuming a single disease-susceptibility locus or group of loci tightly linked to a marker locus, the relationship is remarkably simple and general. Namely, if phi R is the prior probability for the relative pair to share zero marker alleles identical by descent, then P (sharing 0 markers/both relatives are affected) is just phi R/lambda R. Alternatively, lambda AR, the increased risk over population prevalence to a relative R due to a disease locus tightly linked to marker locus A, equals the prior probability that the relative pair share zero A alleles ibd divided by the posterior probability that they share zero alleles ibd, given that they are both affected. For example, for affected sib pairs, P (sharing 0 markers/both sibs are affected) = .25/lambda S. This formula holds true for any number of alleles at the disease locus and for their frequencies, penetrances, and population prevalence. Similar formulas are derived for sharing one and two markers. Application of these formulas to several well-studied HLA-associated diseases yields the following results: For multiple sclerosis, insulin-dependent diabetes mellitus, and coeliac disease, a single-locus model of disease susceptibility is rejected, implying the existence of additional unlinked familial determinants. For all three diseases, the effect of the HLA-linked locus on familiality is minor: for multiple sclerosis, it accounts for only a 2.5-fold increased risk to sibs over the population prevalence, compared to an observed value of 20; for coeliac disease, it accounts for approximately a 5.25-fold increased risk to sibs, while the observed value is on the order of 60; for insulin-dependent diabetes mellitus, it accounts for a 3.42-fold increased risk in sibs, while the observed value is 15. In all cases, the secondary determinants must be outside the HLA region. For tuberculoid leprosy, an unlinked familial determinant is also implicated (increased risk to sibs due to HLA = 1.49; observed value = 2.38). For hemochromatosis and Hodgkin's disease, there is little evidence for HLA-unlinked familial determinants. With this formula, it is also possible to examine the hypothesis of pleiotropy versus linkage dis-equilibrium by comparing lambda AS with the increased risk to sibs due to the associated allele(s).(ABSTRACT TRUNCATED AT 400 WORDS)

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Celiac Disease / genetics
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 1 / genetics
  • Disease Susceptibility*
  • Genetic Linkage*
  • Genetic Markers
  • HLA Antigens / genetics*
  • Hemochromatosis / genetics
  • Hodgkin Disease / genetics
  • Humans
  • Models, Genetic*
  • Multiple Sclerosis / genetics
  • Risk


  • Genetic Markers
  • HLA Antigens