HLA DQB1*0602 is associated with cataplexy in 509 narcoleptic patients

Sleep. 1997 Nov;20(11):1012-20.


Narcolepsy is a sleep disorder associated with HLA DR15 (DR2) and DQB1*0602. We HLA typed 509 patients enrolled in a clinical trial for the drug modafinil and analyzed the results in relation to cataplexy, a symptom of narcolepsy characterized by muscle weakness triggered by emotions. The patients were either subjects with cataplexy who had a mean sleep latency (SL) of less than 8 minutes and two or more sleep onset rapid eye movement (REM) periods (SOREMPs) during a multiple sleep latency test, or narcoleptic patients without cataplexy but with a mean SL shorter than 5 minutes and two or more SOREMPs. The respective values of DRB1*15 (DR2) and DQB1*0602 as markers for narcolepsy were first compared in different ethnic groups and in patients with and without cataplexy. DQB1*0602 was found to be a more sensitive marker for narcolepsy than DRB1*15 across all ethnic groups. DQB1*0602 frequency was strikingly higher in patients with cataplexy versus patients without cataplexy (76.1% in 421 patients versus 40.9% in 88 patients). Positivity was highest in patients with severe cataplexy (94.8%) and progressively decreased to 54.2% in patients with the mildest cataplexy. A voluntary 50-item questionnaire focusing on cataplexy was also analyzed in 212 of the 509 HLA-typed patients. Subjects with definite cataplexy as observed by an experienced clinician were more frequently HLA DQB1*0602-positive than those with doubtful cataplexy, and the manifestations of cataplexy were clinically more typical in DQB1*0602-positive patients. These results show that the HLA association is as tight as previously reported (85-95%) when cataplexy is clinically typical or severe. We also found that patients with mild, atypical, or no cataplexy have a significantly increased DQB1*0602 frequency (40-60%) in comparison with ethnically matched controls (24%). These results could be explained by increased disease heterogeneity in the noncataplexy group or by a direct effect of the HLA DQB1*0602 genotype on the clinical expression of narcolepsy.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Multicenter Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Benzhydryl Compounds / therapeutic use
  • Cataplexy / drug therapy
  • Cataplexy / etiology
  • Cataplexy / immunology*
  • Central Nervous System Stimulants / therapeutic use
  • Female
  • HLA-DQ Antigens / immunology*
  • Haplotypes / genetics
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Modafinil
  • Narcolepsy / complications
  • Narcolepsy / immunology*
  • Racial Groups
  • Severity of Illness Index
  • Sleep, REM / physiology


  • Benzhydryl Compounds
  • Central Nervous System Stimulants
  • HLA-DQ Antigens
  • Modafinil