Background: There are relatively few studies of HLA class II association either with Crohn's disease (CD) or ulcerative colitis (UC). The few available association studies have been carried out by serological techniques, and the results from these studies are inconclusive.
Methods: The association between HLA class II genes was studied using molecular genotyping in combination with allele-specific oligonucleotide hybridization by polymerase chain reactions.
Results: In UC (n = 74), we observed a positive association with the HLA DR2 allele (P = 0.008) and negative associations with the DR4 (P = 0.018) and DRw6 (P = 0.028) when compared with ethnically matched controls (n = 77). No associations were observed with any DQ alleles. In contrast, in CD (n = 95) we observed a positive association with the combination of DR1 and DQw5 alleles (P = 0.021). Furthermore, stratifying DR1 and DQw5 alleles indicated that neither allele was independently associated with CD, suggesting that the association was with the haplotype rather than either of the alleles individually. A suballele of DQw5, DQB1*0501, contributed this haplotypic association (P = 0.012).
Conclusions: DR and DQ molecules firmly separate UC and CD on genetic grounds, suggesting that the contribution of the HLA class II genes to the disease susceptibility is quite different for the two disorders.