Immunogenetics of chronic liver diseases

Gastroenterology. 1994 Jun;106(6):1676-97. doi: 10.1016/0016-5085(94)90427-8.


The genetic background of autoimmune diseases becomes more and more evident. Immunogenetics comprises the analysis of genes and their products located at the region 6p21 on the short arm of chromosome 6, which is also known as the major histocompatibility complex (MHC). MHC class I and II genes are highly polymorphic. The complement genes C2, C4A, C4B, and BF, which are also polymorphic, became known as MHC class III genes. In autoimmune hepatitis type 1, there is a dual association for white persons with either HLA-A1-B8-DR3 or HLA-DR4. In patients from Japan, autoimmune hepatitis type 1 is predominantly associated with HLA-DR4. This dual association is confirmed at the DNA level. Whereas only limited data are available for autoimmune hepatitis type 2, the association of primary biliary cirrhosis with HLA-DR8 is based on several studies. Primary sclerosing cholangitis is associated with HLA-B8-DR3 and -DR52a. This association was confirmed at the DNA level because of a significant increase of the DRB3*0101 allele. For DRB3*0101-negative individuals, a second association with DRB5*0101 (= DR2) was described. Further analysis of the hypervariable region of the HLA class II molecule indicates that lysine at position 71 is crucial for autoimmune hepatitis type 1 in white persons, whereas position 13 is important for people from Japan. In contrast, leucine at position 35 is important for patients with primary biliary cirrhosis, whereas leucine at position 38 is an important risk factor for primary sclerosing cholangitis. The MHC class III allele C4A-QO is significantly increased in autoimmune hepatitis type 1 and 2 and in primary biliary cirrhosis. Advances in immunogenetics will certainly increase our knowledge of the etiology and pathogenesis of immune-mediated liver diseases, which hopefully will lead to more specific therapeutic interventions.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Chronic Disease
  • HLA Antigens / analysis
  • HLA Antigens / classification
  • HLA Antigens / genetics
  • Humans
  • Immunogenetics
  • Liver Diseases / genetics*
  • Liver Diseases / immunology*
  • Major Histocompatibility Complex / physiology
  • Terminology as Topic


  • HLA Antigens