Human leukocyte antigen-DQA1*04:01 and rs2040406 variants are associated with elevated risk of childhood Burkitt lymphoma

Commun Biol. 2024 Jan 5;7(1):41. doi: 10.1038/s42003-023-05701-5.


Burkitt lymphoma (BL) is responsible for many childhood cancers in sub-Saharan Africa, where it is linked to recurrent or chronic infection by Epstein-Barr virus or Plasmodium falciparum. However, whether human leukocyte antigen (HLA) polymorphisms, which regulate immune response, are associated with BL has not been well investigated, which limits our understanding of BL etiology. Here we investigate this association among 4,645 children aged 0-15 years, 800 with BL, enrolled in Uganda, Tanzania, Kenya, and Malawi. HLA alleles are imputed with accuracy >90% for HLA class I and 85-89% for class II alleles. BL risk is elevated with HLA-DQA1*04:01 (adjusted odds ratio [OR] = 1.61, 95% confidence interval [CI] = 1.32-1.97, P = 3.71 × 10-6), with rs2040406(G) in HLA-DQA1 region (OR = 1.43, 95% CI = 1.26-1.63, P = 4.62 × 10-8), and with amino acid Gln at position 53 versus other variants in HLA-DQA1 (OR = 1.36, P = 2.06 × 10-6). The associations with HLA-DQA1*04:01 (OR = 1.29, P = 0.03) and rs2040406(G) (OR = 1.68, P = 0.019) persist in mutually adjusted models. The higher risk rs2040406(G) variant for BL is associated with decreased HLA-DQB1 expression in eQTLs in EBV transformed lymphocytes. Our results support the role of HLA variation in the etiology of BL and suggest that a promising area of research might be understanding the link between HLA variation and EBV control.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Burkitt Lymphoma* / genetics
  • Child
  • Epstein-Barr Virus Infections* / complications
  • Epstein-Barr Virus Infections* / genetics
  • HLA-DQ alpha-Chains / genetics
  • Herpesvirus 4, Human / genetics
  • Humans


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