Objective: To analyze HLA-DR4 alleles in New Zealand Polynesians with rheumatoid arthritis (RA).
Methods: Thirty Polynesians and 30 Caucasians with RA, as well as 65 Polynesian and 60 Caucasian healthy blood donors, were DR4 subtyped using the polymerase chain reaction and sequence-specific oligonucleotide probes.
Results: The frequency of DR4 (DRB1*04) was increased in both Polynesian (P < 0.001) and Caucasian (P < 0.005) RA patients compared with race-matched controls. Dw4 (DRB1*0401) was detected in 15 of 30 Caucasian patients but only 2 of 30 Polynesian patients (P < 0.001). In Polynesians, RA was associated with Dw15 (DRB1*0405), which was present in 11 of 30 patients and 3 of 65 controls (P < 0.001). Dw13 (DRB1*0403) was the most frequent DR4 allele in healthy Polynesians, but was not significantly associated with RA.
Conclusion: The predominance of the Dw13 subtype in Polynesians may explain in part the low prevalence of RA in this population. The association of Dw15 with RA in Polynesians supports the hypothesis that the third hypervariable region of DR beta determines susceptibility to RA.