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1.  IFN-γ production in response to in vitro stimulation with collagen type II in rheumatoid arthritis is associated with HLA-DRB1*0401 and HLA-DQ8 
Arthritis Research  1999;2(1):75-84.
IFN-γ was measured in supernatants after in vitro stimulation of peripheral blood mononuclear cells with collagen type II (CII), purified protein derivative or influenza virus. IFN-γ production in response to CII was similar in rheumatoid arthritis (RA) patients and healthy control individuals. The IFN-γ response to purified protein derivative and influenza virus was lower in RA patients, reflecting a general T-cell hyporesponsiveness in RA. After recalculating the response to CII taking this hyporesponsiveness into account the CII response was higher in RA patients, and was associated with human leucocyte antigen (HLA)-DRB1*0401 and HLA-DQA1*0301-DQB1*0302 (HLA-DQ8). Rheumatoid arthritis patients with elevated serum levels of immunoglobulin (Ig)G anti-CII antibodies had lower CII-induced IFN-γ production than patients with low anti-CII levels. The relative increase in CII-reactivity in RA patients as compared with healthy control individuals, and the association of a higher response with RA-associated HLA haplotypes, suggest the existence of a potentially pathogenic cellular reactivity against CII in RA.
Despite much work over past decades, whether antigen-specific immune reactions occur in rheumatoid arthritis (RA) and to what extent such reactions are directed towards joint-specific autoantigens is still questionable. One strong indicator for antigenic involvement in RA is the fact that certain major histocompatibility complex (MHC) class II genotypes [human leucocyte antigen (HLA)-DR4 and HLA-DR1] predispose for the development of the disease [1]. In the present report, collagen type II (CII) was studied as a putative autoantigen on the basis of both clinical and experimental data that show an increased frequency of antibodies to CII in RA patients [2,3,4] and that show that CII can induce experimental arthritis [5].
It is evident from the literature that RA peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMCs) respond poorly to antigenic stimulation [6,7,8], and in particular evidence for a partial tolerization to CII has been presented [9]. The strategy of the present work has accordingly been to reinvestigate T-cell reactivity to CII in RA patients, to relate it to the response to commonly used recall antigens and to analyze IFN-γ responses as an alternative to proliferative responses.
To study cellular immune reactivity to CII in patients with RA and in healthy control individuals and to correlate this reactivity to HLA class II genotypes and to the presence of antibodies to CII in serum.
Forty-five patients who met the 1987 American College of Rheumatology classification criteria for RA [10] and 25 healthy control individuals of similar age and sex were included. Twenty-six of these patients who had low levels of anti-CII in serum were randomly chosen, whereas 19 patients with high anti-CII levels were identified by enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA)-screening of 400 RA sera.
Heparinized blood was density gradient separated and PBMCs were cultured at 1 × 106/ml in RPMI-10% fetal calf serum with or without antigenic stimulation: native or denatured CII (100 μ g/ml), killed influenza virus (Vaxigrip, Pasteur Mérieux, Lyon, France; diluted 1 : 1000) or purified protein derivative (PPD; 10 μ g/ml). CII was heat-denatured in 56°C for 30 min.
Cell supernatants were collected after 7days and IFN-γ contents were analyzed using ELISA. HLA-DR and HLA-DQ genotyping was performed utilizing a polymerase chain reaction-based technique with sequence-specific oligonucleotide probe hybridization. Nonparametric statistical analyses were utilized throughout the study.
PBMCs from both RA patients and healthy control individuals responded with inteferon-γ production to the same degree to stimulation with native and denatured CII (Fig. 1a), giving median stimulation indexes with native CII of 4.6 for RA patients and 5.4 for healthy control individuals, and with denatured CII of 2.9 for RA patients and 2.6 for healthy control individuals. RA patients with elevated levels of anti-CII had a weaker IFN-γ response to both native and denatured CII than did healthy control individuals (P = 0.02 and 0.04, respectively).
Stimulation with the standard recall antigens PPD and killed influenza virus yielded a median stimulation index with PPD of 10.0 for RA patients and 51.3 for healthy control individuals and with influenza of 12.3 for RA patients and 25.7 for healthy, control individuals. The RA patients displayed markedly lower responsiveness to both PPD and killed influenza virus than did healthy control individuals (Fig. 1b). IFN-γ responses to all antigens were abrogated when coincubating with antibodies blocking MHC class II.
The low response to PPD and killed influenza virus in RA patients relative to that of healthy control individuals reflects a general downregulation of antigen-induced responsiveness of T cells from RA patients [6,7,8]. That no difference between the RA group and the control group was recorded in CII-induced IFN-γ production therefore indicates that there may be an underlying increased responsiveness to CII in RA patients, which is obscured by the general downregulation of T-cell responsiveness in these patients. In order to address this possibility, we calculated the fraction between individual values for the CII-induced IFN-γ production and the PPD-induced and killed influenza virus-induced IFN-γ production, and compared these fractions. A highly significant difference between the RA and healthy control groups was apparent after stimulation with both native CII and denatured CII when expressing the response as a fraction of that with PPD (Fig. 2a). Similar data were obtained using killed influenza virus-stimulated IFN-γ values as the denominator (Fig. 2b).
When comparing the compensated IFN-γ response to denatured CII stimulation between RA patients with different HLA genotypes, highly significant differences were evident, with HLA-DRB1*0401 patients having greater CII responsiveness than patients who lacked this genotype (Fig. 3a). HLA-DQ8 positive patients also displayed a high responsiveness to CII as compared with HLA-DQ8 negative RA patients (Fig. 3b). These associations between the relative T-cell reactivity to denatured CII and HLA class II genotypes were not seen in healthy control individuals. Similar results were achieved using influenza as denominator (P = 0.02 for HLA-DRB1*0401 and P = 0.01 for HLA-DQ8).
No reports have previously systematically taken the general T-cell hyporesponsiveness in RA into account when investigating specific T-cell responses in this disease. In order to address this issue we used the T-cell responses to PPD and killed influenza virus as reference antigens. This was made on the assumption that exposure to these antigens is similar in age-matched and sex-matched groups of RA patients and healthy control individuals. The concept of a general hyporesponsiveness in RA T cells has been documented in several previous reports, in which both nominal antigens [6,7,8] and mitogens [11,12,13] have been used. The fact that a similar functional downregulation in RA PBMCs was obtained with both PPD and killed influenza virus as reference antigens strengthens the validity of our approach.
We identified an association between the IFN-γ response to CII and HLA-DRB1*0401 and HLA-DQ8 in the RA patient group, which is of obvious interest because both these MHC class II alleles have been associated with high responsiveness to CII in transgenic mice that express these human MHC class II molecules [14,15]. There was no association between high anti-CII levels and shared epitope (HLA-DRB1*0401 or HLA-DRB1*0404).
CII, a major autoantigen candidate in RA, can elicit an IFN-γ response in vitro that is associated with HLA-DRB1*0401 and HLA-DQ8 in RA patients. This study, with a partly new methodological approach to a classical problem in RA, has provided some additional support to the notion that CII may be a target autoantigen of importance for a substantial group of RA patients. Continued efforts to identify mechanisms behind the general hyporesponsiveness to antigens in RA, as well as the mechanisms behind the potential partial anergy to CII, may provide us with better opportunities to study the specificity and pathophysiological relevance of anti-CII reactivity in RA.
PMCID: PMC17806  PMID: 11219392
collagen type II; human leucocyte antigen-DR; IFN-γ; rheumatoid arthritis; T cell
2.  A molecular basis for the association of the HLA-DRB1 locus, citrullination, and rheumatoid arthritis 
The Journal of Experimental Medicine  2013;210(12):2569-2582.
A comprehensive structural portrait of the association between citrullination, the HLA-DRB1 locus, and T cell autoreactivity in rheumatoid arthritis.
Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is strongly associated with the human leukocyte antigen (HLA)-DRB1 locus that possesses the shared susceptibility epitope (SE) and the citrullination of self-antigens. We show how citrullinated aggrecan and vimentin epitopes bind to HLA-DRB1*04:01/04. Citrulline was accommodated within the electropositive P4 pocket of HLA-DRB1*04:01/04, whereas the electronegative P4 pocket of the RA-resistant HLA-DRB1*04:02 allomorph interacted with arginine or citrulline-containing epitopes. Peptide elution studies revealed P4 arginine–containing peptides from HLA-DRB1*04:02, but not from HLA-DRB1*04:01/04. Citrullination altered protease susceptibility of vimentin, thereby generating self-epitopes that are presented to T cells in HLA-DRB1*04:01+ individuals. Using HLA-II tetramers, we observed citrullinated vimentin- and aggrecan-specific CD4+ T cells in the peripheral blood of HLA-DRB1*04:01+ RA-affected and healthy individuals. In RA patients, autoreactive T cell numbers correlated with disease activity and were deficient in regulatory T cells relative to healthy individuals. These findings reshape our understanding of the association between citrullination, the HLA-DRB1 locus, and T cell autoreactivity in RA.
PMCID: PMC3832918  PMID: 24190431
3.  Use of monoclonal antibodies to detect disease associated HLA-DRB1 alleles and the shared epitope in rheumatoid arthritis 
Annals of the Rheumatic Diseases  1997;56(2):135-139.
OBJECTIVE—To use a panel of monoclonal antibodies (Mab) which recognise HLA class II alleles associated with rheumatoid arthritis for fluorescence activated cell sorter (FACS) analysis of peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMNC) from patients with early and established rheumatoid arthritis and to compare these results against DNA oligotyping of HLA class II molecules in the same patients.
METHODS—27 patients (18 from an early arthritis clinic, nine with established rheumatoid arthritis) were studied using both techniques. PBMNC were stained with Mab which recognise the shared epitope, the HLA-DRB1*04 molecule and its *0401, *0404 subtypes in the presence of bound peptide. Mab stained cells were analysed by FACS. Genomic DNA was prepared from PBMNC and used for DNA oligotyping and sequencing by standard methods.
RESULTS—FACS analysis of Mab stained PBMNC gave identical results to those obtained by DNA oligotyping in 26/27 patients. The antibodies identified the shared epitope in 14/14 cases and the presence of an HLA-DRB1*04 molecule in 12/12 cases. HLA-DRB1*0404 was identified in 4/4 cases. HLA-DRB1*0401 was identified in 5/6 cases. One patient oligotyped as HLA-DRB1*0401, but consistently failed to react with the *0401 Mab. DNA sequencing of the second exon of the HLA-DRB1*0401 allele in this patient confirmed a normal HLA-DRB1*0401 genotype.
CONCLUSIONS—FACS analysis of PBMNC stained with Mab recognising the shared epitope and rheumatoid arthritis associated HLA susceptibility molecules provides a rapid, reliable, and more accessible alternative to DNA oligotyping. The apparent discordance between phenotypic and genetic analysis of HLA-DRB1*0401 in one patient, may reflect variability in HLA-DRB1*0401 gene expression or in class II peptide presentation.

PMCID: PMC1752326  PMID: 9068289
4.  Shared Epitope Alleles Remain A Risk Factor for Anti-Citrullinated Proteins Antibody (ACPA) – Positive Rheumatoid Arthritis in Three Asian Ethnic Groups 
PLoS ONE  2011;6(6):e21069.
To investigate the associations between HLA-DRB1 shared epitope (SE) alleles and rheumatoid arthritis in subsets of rheumatoid arthritis defined by autoantibodies in three Asian populations from Malaysia.
1,079 rheumatoid arthritis patients and 1,470 healthy controls were included in the study. Levels of antibodies to citrullinated proteins (ACPA) and rheumatoid factors were assessed and the PCR-SSO method was used for HLA-DRB1 genotyping.
The proportion of ACPA positivity among Malay, Chinese and Indian rheumatoid arthritis patients were 62.9%, 65.2% and 68.6%, respectively. An increased frequency of SE alleles was observed in ACPA-positive rheumatoid arthritis among the three Asian ethnic groups. HLA-DRB1*10 was highly associated with rheumatoid arthritis susceptibility in these Asian populations. HLA-DRB1*0405 was significantly associated with susceptibility to rheumatoid arthritis in Malays and Chinese, but not in Indians. HLA-DRB1*01 did not show any independent effect as a risk factor for rheumatoid arthritis in this study and HLA-DRB1*1202 was protective in Malays and Chinese. There was no association between SE alleles and ACPA- negative rheumatoid arthritis in any of the three Asian ethnic groups.
The HLA-DRB1 SE alleles increase the risk of ACPA-positive rheumatoid arthritis in all three Asian populations from Malaysia.
PMCID: PMC3115981  PMID: 21698259
5.  HLA-DRB1 Genotypes and the Risk of Developing Anti Citrullinated Protein Antibody (ACPA) Positive Rheumatoid Arthritis 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(5):e64108.
To provide a table indicating the risk for developing anti citrullinated protein antibody (ACPA) positive rheumatoid arthritis (RA) according to one’s HLA-DRB1 genotype.
We HLA-DRB1 genotyped 857 patients with ACPA positive RA and 2178 controls from South Eastern and Eastern France and calculated Odds Ratios (OR) for developing RA for 106 of 132 possible genotypes accounting for 97% of subjects.
HLA-DRB1 genotypic ORs for developing ACPA positive RA range from 28 to 0.19. HLA-DRB1 genotypes with HLA-DRB1*04SE (HLA-DRB1*0404, HLA-DRB1*0405, HLA-DRB1*0408), HLA-DRB1*04∶01, HLA-DRB1*01 are usually associated with high risk for developing RA. The second HLA-DRB1 allele in genotype somewhat modulates shared epitope associated risk. We did not identify any absolutely protective allele. Neither the Reviron, nor the du Montcel models accurately explains our data which are compatible with the shared epitope hypothesis and suggest a dosage effect among shared epitope positive HLA-DRB1 alleles, double dose genotypes carrying higher ORs than single dose genotypes.
HLA-DRB1 genotypic risk for developing ACPA positive RA is influenced by both HLA-DRB1 alleles in genotype. We provide an HLA-DRB1 genotypic risk table for ACPA positive RA.
PMCID: PMC3667843  PMID: 23737967
6.  New classification of HLA-DRB1 alleles in rheumatoid arthritis susceptibility: a combined analysis of worldwide samples 
Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is a complex polygenic disease of unknown etiology. HLA-DRB1 alleles encoding the shared epitope (SE) (RAA amino acid pattern in positions 72 to 74 of the third hypervariable region of the DRβ1 chain) are associated with RA susceptibility. A new classification of HLA-DRB1 SE alleles has been developed by Tezenas du Montcel and colleagues to refine the association between HLA-DRB1 and RA. In the present study, we used RA samples collected worldwide to investigate the relevance of this new HLA-DRB1 classification in terms of RA susceptibility across various Caucasoid and non-Caucasoid patients.
Eighteen subsamples were defined from a total number of 759 cases and 789 controls and grouped in 10 samples on the basis of their ethnic origin. HLA-DRB1 alleles were divided into five groups (S1, S2, S3D, S3P, and X) according to the new HLA-DRB1 allele classification. The whole analysis was performed by comparing carrier frequencies for the five HLA-DRB1 allele groups between RA patients and controls across the 10 Caucasoid and non-Caucasoid samples. The Mantel-Haenszel method of meta-analysis provided a global odds ratio (OR) estimate with 95% confidence interval (CI).
A positive association with RA susceptibility was found for S2 allele carriers (OR 2.15, 95% CI 1.54 to 3.00; p < 10-5) and S3P allele carriers (OR 2.74, 95% CI 2.01 to 3.74; p < 10-5). A negative association was found for S1 alleles (OR 0.60, 95% CI 0.48 to 0.76; p < 10-4) and X alleles (OR 0.58, 95% CI 0.39 to 0.84; p = 4 × 10-3). No significant association was highlighted for the S3D group of alleles (OR 0.89, 95% CI 0.69 to 1.14; p = 0.89). The complementary genotype analysis fit with the genotype risk hierarchy previously reported in Caucasoid RA patients.
So far, the present study is the first attempt to investigate the relevance of this new HLA-DRB1 classification in terms of RA susceptibility on both Caucasoid and non-Caucasoid samples. Our results support the hypothesis of a differential role played by different HLA-DRB1 allele groups in RA susceptibility across different ethnic backgrounds and confirm the interest of such an HLA-DRB1 classification in differentiating predisposing and protective alleles.
PMCID: PMC2374469  PMID: 18307784
7.  HLA-DR-DQ haplotypes and genotypes in Finnish patients with rheumatoid arthritis 
Annals of the Rheumatic Diseases  2004;63(11):1406-1412.
Objectives: To elucidate the contribution of HLA-DR-DQ haplotypes and their genotypic combinations to susceptibility to rheumatoid arthritis, and to evaluate the various models for HLA associated risk for the disease in a series of Finnish patients.
Methods: 322 Finnish patients with rheumatoid arthritis were typed for common north European HLA-DR-DQ haplotypes and compared with a series of 1244 artificial family based control haplotypes.
Results: The association of the so called shared epitope (SE) haplotypes (DRB1*0401, *0404, *0408, and *01) with rheumatoid arthritis was confirmed. The DRB1*0401 haplotypes carried a far stronger risk for the disease than the (DRB1*01/10)-(DQA1*01)-DQB1*0501 haplotypes. Seven protective HLA haplotypes—(DRB1*15)-(DQA1*01)-DQB1*0602; (DRB1*08)-(DQA1*04)-DQB1*04; (DRB1*11/12)-DQA1*05-DQB1*0301; (DRB1*1301)-(DQA1*01)-DQB1*0603; (DRB1*1302)-(DQA1*01)-DQB1*0604; (DRB1*07)-DQA1*0201-DQB1*0303; and (DRB1*16)- (DQA1*01)-DQB1*0502—were identified. In accordance with the reshaped shared epitope hypothesis, all the protective DRB1 alleles in these haplotypes share either isoleucine at position 67 or aspartic acid at position 70 in their third hypervariable region motif. However, differences in the disease risk of haplotypes carrying the same DR but different DQ alleles were also found: (DRB1*07)-DQA1*0201-DQB1*0303 was protective, while (DRB1*07)-DQA1*0201-DQB1*02 was neutral. The same haplotypes carried different risks for rheumatoid arthritis depending on their combination in genotypes.
Conclusions: When assessing the influence of HLA genes on the susceptibility to rheumatoid arthritis, not only should the HLA-DR or -DQ alleles or haplotypes be unravelled but also the genotype. The effect of HLA class II region genes is more complicated than any of the existing hypotheses can explain.
PMCID: PMC1754800  PMID: 15479890
8.  Specificity of T cells in synovial fluid: high frequencies of CD8+ T cells that are specific for certain viral epitopes 
Arthritis Research  2000;2(2):154-164.
CD8+ T cells dominate the lymphocyte population in synovial fluid in chronic inflammatory arthritis. It is known that these CD8+ T cells are often clonally or oligoclonally expanded, but their specificity and their relevance to the pathogenesis of joint disease has remained unclear. We found that as many as 15.5% of synovial CD8+ T cells may be specific for a single epitope from an Epstein-Barr virus lytic cycle protein. The virus-specific T cells within the joint showed increased expression of markers of activation and differentiation compared with those in the periphery, and retained their functional capacity to secrete proinflammatory cytokines on stimulation. These activated, virus-specific CD8+ T cells could therefore interact with synoviocytes, either by cell-cell contact or by a cytokine network, and play a 'bystander' role in the maintenance of inflammation in patients with arthritis.
Epstein-Barr virus (EBV) is transmitted orally, replicates in the oropharynx and establishes life-long latency in human B lymphocytes. T-cell responses to latent and lytic/replicative cycle proteins are readily detectable in peripheral blood from healthy EBV-seropositive individuals. EBV has also been detected within synovial tissue, and T-cell responses to EBV lytic proteins have been reported in synovial fluid from a patient with rheumatoid arthritis (RA). This raises the question regarding whether T cells specific for certain viruses might be present at high frequencies within synovial fluid and whether such T cells might be activated or able to secrete cytokines. If so, they might play a 'bystander' role in the pathogenesis of inflammatory joint disease.
To quantify and characterize T cells that are specific for epitopes from EBV, cytomegalovirus (CMV) and influenza in peripheral blood and synovial fluid from patients with arthritis.
Peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMCs) and synovial fluid mononuclear cells (SFMCs) were obtained from patients with inflammatory arthritis (including those with RA, osteoarthritis, psoriatic arthritis and reactive arthritis). Samples from human leucocyte antigen (HLA)-A2-positive donors were stained with fluorescent-labelled tetramers of HLA-A2 complexed with the GLCTLVAML peptide epitope from the EBV lytic cycle protein BMLF1, the GILGFVFTL peptide epitope from the influenza A matrix protein, or the NLVPMVATV epitope from the CMV pp65 protein. Samples from HLA-B8-positive donors were stained with fluorescent-labelled tetramers of HLA-B8 complexed with the RAKFKQLL peptide epitope from the EBV lytic protein BZLF1 or the FLRGRAYGL peptide epitope from the EBV latent protein EBNA3A. All samples were costained with an antibody specific for CD8. CD4+ T cells were not analyzed. Selected samples were costained with antibodies specific for cell-surface glycoproteins, in order to determine the phenotype of the T cells within the joint and the periphery. Functional assays to detect release of IFN-γ or tumour necrosis factor (TNF)-α were also performed on some samples.
The first group of 15 patients included 10 patients with RA, one patient with reactive arthritis, one patient with psoriatic arthritis and three patients with osteoarthritis. Of these, 11 were HLA-A2 positive and five were HLA-B8 positive. We used HLA-peptide tetrameric complexes to analyze the frequency of EBV-specific T cells in PBMCs and SFMCs (Figs 1 and 2). Clear enrichment of CD8+ T cells specific for epitopes from the EBV lytic cycle proteins was seen within synovial fluid from almost all donors studied, including patients with psoriatic arthritis and osteoarthritis and those with RA. In donor RhA6, 9.5% of CD8+ SFMCs were specific for the HLA-A2 restricted GLCTLVAML epitope, compared with 0.5% of CD8+ PBMCs. Likewise in a donor with osteoarthritis (NR4), 15.5% of CD8+ SFMCs were specific for the HLA-B8-restricted RAKFKQLL epitope, compared with 0.4% of CD8+ PBMCs. In contrast, we did not find enrichment of T cells specific for the HLA-B8-restricted FLRGRAYGL epitope (from the latent protein EBNA3A) within SFMCs compared with PBMCs in any donors. In selected individuals we performed ELISpot assays to detect IFN-γ secreted by SFMCs and PBMCs after a short incubation in vitro with peptide epitopes from EBV lytic proteins. These assays confirmed enrichment of T cells specific for epitopes from EBV lytic proteins within synovial fluid and showed that subpopulations of these cells were able to secrete proinflammatory cytokines after short-term stimulation.
We used a HLA-A2/GILGFVFTL tetramer to stain PBMCs and SFMCs from six HLA-A2-positive patients. The proportion of T cells specific for this influenza epitope was low (<0.2%) in all donors studied, and we did not find any enrichment within SFMCs.
We had access to SFMCs only from a second group of four HLA-A2-positive patients with RA. A tetramer of HLA-A2 complexed to the NLVPMVATV epitope from the CMV pp65 protein reacted with subpopulations of CD8+ SFMCs in all four donors, with frequencies of 0.2, 0.5, 2.3 and 13.9%. SFMCs from all four donors secreted TNF after short-term incubation with COS cells transfected with HLA-A2 and pp65 complementary DNA. We analyzed the phenotype of virus-specific cells within PBMCs and SFMCs in three donors. The SFMC virus-specific T cells were more highly activated than those in PBMCs, as evidenced by expression of high levels of CD69 and HLA-DR. A greater proportion of SFMCs were CD38+, CD62L low, CD45RO bright, CD45RA dim, CD57+ and CD28- when compared with PBMCs.
This work shows that T cells specific for certain epitopes from viral proteins are present at very high frequencies (up to 15.5% of CD8+ T cells) within SFMCs taken from patients with inflammatory joint disease. This enrichment does not reflect a generalized enrichment for the 'memory pool' of T cells; we did not find enrichment of T cells specific for the GILGFVFTL epitope from influenza A or for the FLRGRAYGL epitope from the EBV latent protein EBNA3A, whereas we found clear enrichment of T cells specific for the GLCTLVAML epitope from the EBV lytic protein BMLF1 and for the RAKFKQLL epitope from the EBV lytic protein BZLF1.
The enrichment might reflect preferential recruitment of subpopulations of virus-specific T cells, perhaps based on expression of selectins, chemokine receptors or integrins. Alternatively, T cells specific for certain viral epitopes may be stimulated to proliferate within the joint, by viral antigens themselves or by cross-reactive self-antigens. Finally, it is theoretically possible that subpopulations of T cells within the joint are preferentially protected from apoptotic cell death. Whatever the explanation, the virus-specific T cells are present at high frequency, are activated and are able to secrete proinflammatory cytokines. They could potentially interact with synoviocytes and contribute to the maintenance of inflammation within joints in many different forms of inflammatory arthritis.
PMCID: PMC17809  PMID: 11062606
CD8+ T cell; Epstein-Barr virus lytic cycle; human leucocyte antigen peptide tetrameric complex; rheumatoid arthritis; viral immunity
9.  Rheumatoid arthritis associated autoantibodies in patients with synovitis of recent onset 
Arthritis Research  2000;2(3):236-243.
An inception cohort of 238 patients having peripheral joint synovitis of less than 12 months duration was evaluated clinically and followed prospectively for 1 year to determine the clinical significance of a number of rheumatoid arthritis (RA) associated autoantibodies. Serum samples collected at the time of the initial evaluation were tested for rheumatoid factor (RF) and antibodies to Sa (anti-Sa), RA-33, (pro)filaggrin [antifilaggrin antibody (AFA)], cyclic citrullinated peptide (anti-CCP), calpastatin, and keratin [antikeratin antibody (AKA)]. RF had a sensitivity of 66% and a specificity of 87% for RA. Anti-Sa, AFA, and anti-CCP all had a specificity of more than 90%, but a sensitivity of less than 50% for this diagnosis. Overall, there was a high degree of correlation between AFA, AKA, anti-Sa or anti-CCP, this being highest between anti-Sa and anti-CCP (odds ratio, 13.3; P < 0.001). Of the 101 patients who were positive for at least one of these four autoantibodies, 57% were positive for only one. Finally, anti-SA identified a subset of predominantly male RA patients with severe, erosive disease. Anti-SA, AFA and anti-CCP are all specific for early RA but, overall, have little additional diagnostic value over RF alone. Although these antibodies may preferentially recognize citrullinated antigens, the modest degree of concordance between them in individual patient sera suggests that it is unlikely a single antigen is involved in generating these responses.
A spectrum of autoantibodies is now known to be specifically associated with RA. There continues to be uncertainty as to what stage of the disease each of these autoantibodies develop, and whether they are associated with unique clinical features.
To help address these questions, a spectrum of autoantibodies known to be associated with RA in a cohort of patients with early synovitis was evaluated.
An inception cohort of 238 patients having peripheral joint synovitis of less than 12 months duration was evaluated clinicially then followed prospectively for 1 year. Patients were classified as having RA on the basis of fulfilling the 1987 criteria. Serum samples collected at the time of the initial evaluation were tested for anti-Sa and anti-RA-33 using immunoblotting, and to (pro)filaggrin (AFA), anti-CCP, and calpastatin (anti-RA-1) using enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay techniques. AKA were detected using immunoflurescence on human epidermal tissue. RF was tested by nephelometry. HLA-DRB1 alleles were determined using sequence specific primers. Initial and 1 year radiographs were evaluated for the presence of erosions.
Of the 238 patients with synovitis of recent onset in the cohort, 106 (45%) met RA criteria, 102 (96%) of whom met the criteria on their initial visit. Diagnoses in the remaining patients included 22 (9%) with reactive arthritis, 14 (6%) with psoriatic arthritis or another form of spondylarthropathy, 11 (5%) with another well-defined rheumatic diagnosis, and 85 (36%) with undifferentiated arthritis. The RA patients were significantly older than the nonRA patients (46 ± 13 versus 39 ± 13; P < 0.001), had higher mean swollen joint count (13.8 ± 9.7 versus 2.3 ± 2.3; P < 0.001), and higher C-reactive protein (CRP) level (1.9 ± 1.9 versus 1.6 ± 2.4; P < 0.01). Table 1 summarizes the prevalence of the various RA associated antibodies in patients diagnosed as having RF-positive (RF+) RA, RF-negative (RF-) RA, and nonRA. Regarding the characteristics of these tests, RF had the highest sensitivity at 66%, and all the other antibodies individually were less than 50% sensitive. AFA, anti-Sa, anti-CCP were greater than 90% specific for RA, while RF and AKA were 80-90% specific, and anti-RA-33 and anti-RA-1 was not specific for this diagnosis. The data further indicate that adding any one of AFA, AKA, anti-Sa, or anti-CCP to RF increases the specificity for RA from 80 to 90%. In the absence of RF, the presence of one or more of these antibodies carried a sensitivity of only 31% for RF- RA, with anti-Sa being the most specific at 98%. Overall, there was a high degree of correlation between AFA, AKA, anti-Sa or anti-CCP, this being highest between anti-Sa and anti-CCP (odds ratio, 13.3; P < 0.001). Despite this high level of correlation, of the 101 patients who were positive for at least one of these four autoantibodies, 57% were positive for only one, suggesting considerable variability in individual reactivity patterns.
RA has been shown in multiple populations to be associated with HLA-DRB1 alleles encoding for the shared epitope (SE). In this study, as illustrated in Table 2, the presence of each of these autoantibodies was significantly associated with having two shared epitope alleles, even when only the RA patients were considered.
Patients with anti-Sa antibodies were predominantly male (61% versus 28%; P<0.01), had significantly higher swollen joint counts (18 ± 12 versus 13 ± 9; P=0.02), and higher CRP levels (2.6 ± 3 mg/dl versus 1.6 ± 1.4 mg/dl; P=0.03) at the initial visit. Despite subsequently begin treated with significantly higher doses of prednisone (4.8 ± 6.0 mg/day versus 1.8 ± 3.3 mg/day; P<0.01), and more disease modifying antirheumatic drug therapy (1.4 ± 0.8 versus 0.9 ± 0.7 disease modifying antirheumatic drugs; P<0.01), the anti-Sa-positive RA patients had a higher frequency of erosions than the rest of the RA patients (60% versus 33%; P=0.03). Neither RF nor SE were associated with the disease severity measures, and analyses evaluating all the other autoantibodies failed to reveal a similar trend.
Despite a well-documented lack of specificity, RF continues to be a central part of the definition of RA, primarily because of its favourable sensitivity profile. In our cohort, RF had a sensitivity of 66%, a specificity of 87%, and an overall accuracy of 78% for the diagnosis of RA. AFA, anti-Sa, anti-CCP were all highly specific for this diagnosis, and when any of them were present in conjunction with RF, the specificity for RA approached 100%. Potentially of more importance to the clinician is the diagnostic value of these antibodies when RF is not detectable. Our data indicate that only 31% of RF- RA patients had any of AKA, AFA, anti-Sa or anti-CCP, and that anti-Sa was the most specific for this diagnosis. This modest level of sensitivity suggests that testing for this spectrum of autoantibodies carries little advantage over RF alone in diagnosing early RA.
AFA, AKA, and antiperinuclear factor (APF) have all been proposed to identify a common antigen present in the skin protein (pro)filaggrin. It has continued to be puzzling why a skin antigen would be targeted relatively specifically in a disorder that is primarily articular. A potential explanation for this may relate to the demonstration that citrulline appears to be an essential constituent of the antigenic determinants recognized by AKA, APF, and AFA. The citrulline rich (pro)filaggrin molecule makes an ideal substrate for detecting this reactivity. Moreover, the SA antigen, which, unlike (pro)filaggrin, is detectable in rheumatoid synovium, has recently been shown to also be citrullinated. It is thus possible that AKA, AFA, APE, and anti-Sa all recognize one or more citrullinated antigens. Despite this possibility, the modest degree of concordance between them in individual patient sera suggests that it is unlikely that a single antigen is involved in generating these responses.
This study provides evidence suggesting that anti-Sa antibodies appear to be a marker for a subset of early RA patients whose disease may be more severe and erosive. Moreover, it was determined that anti-Sa, AFA, and anti-CCP were all highly associated with SE, particularly two copies. We examined a spectrum of potential RA severity indicators including the number of swollen joints, CRP level, and presence of early radiographic erosions. Our data indicate that anti-Sa was more highly associated with these measures of RA severity than any other parameter, including the most accepted prognostic indicators, RF and SE.
In conclusion, it is demonstrated that antibodies directed against putatively citrullinated antigens including SA, filaggrin, keratin, and CCP are the most specific for RA, and are detectable early in the disease course. It will be of interest to find out whether the cumulative prevalence of specific autoantibody subsets tends to increase over time, as this would suggest that the mechanisms underlying the development of these reactivities continue to evolve over the course of the arthropathy.
PMCID: PMC17811  PMID: 11056669
autoantibodies; early synovitis; human leukocyte antigen; rheumatoid arthritis; spondylarthropathy
10.  HLA-DRB1 alleles associated with polymyalgia rheumatica in northern Italy: correlation with disease severity 
Annals of the Rheumatic Diseases  1999;58(5):303-308.
OBJECTIVE—To examine the association of HLA-DRB1 alleles with polymyalgia rheumatica (PMR) in a Mediterranean country and to explore the role of HLA-DRB1 genes in determining disease severity.
METHODS—A five year prospective follow up study of 92 consecutive PMR patients diagnosed by the secondary referral centre of rheumatology of Reggio Emilia, Italy was conducted. HLA-DRB1 alleles were determined in the 92 patients, in 29 DR4 positive rheumatoid arthritis (RA) patients, and in 148 controls from the same geographical area by polymerase chain reaction amplification and oligonucleotide hybridisation.
RESULTS—No significant differences were observed in the frequencies of HLA-DRB1 types and in the expression of HLA-DRB 70-74 shared motif between PMR and controls. The frequency of the patients with double dose of epitope was low and not significantly different in PMR and in controls. No significant differences in the distribution of HLA-DR4 subtypes were observed between DR4+ PMR, DR+ RA, and DR4+ controls. Results of the univariate analysis indicated that an erythrocyte sedimentation rate (ESR) at diagnosis > 72 mm 1st h, the presence of HLA-DR1, DR10, rheumatoid epitope, and the type of rheumatoid epitope were significant risk factors associated with relapse/recurrence. Cox proportional hazards modelling identified two variables that independently increased the risk of relapse/recurrence: ESR at diagnosis > 72 mm 1st h (RR=1.5) and type 2 (encoded by a non-DR4 allele) rheumatoid epitope (RR=2.7).
CONCLUSION—These data from a Mediterranean country showed no association of rheumatoid epitope with PMR in northern Italian patients. A high ESR at diagnosis and the presence of rheumatoid epitope encoded by a non-DR4 allele are independent valuable markers of disease severity.

PMCID: PMC1752874  PMID: 10225816
11.  ACPA-Negative RA Consists of Two Genetically Distinct Subsets Based on RF Positivity in Japanese 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(7):e40067.
HLA-DRB1, especially the shared epitope (SE), is strongly associated with rheumatoid arthritis (RA). However, recent studies have shown that SE is at most weakly associated with RA without anti-citrullinated peptide/protein antibody (ACPA). We have recently reported that ACPA-negative RA is associated with specific HLA-DRB1 alleles and diplotypes. Here, we attempted to detect genetically different subsets of ACPA-negative RA by classifying ACPA-negative RA patients into two groups based on their positivity for rheumatoid factor (RF). HLA-DRB1 genotyping data for totally 954 ACPA-negative RA patients and 2,008 healthy individuals in two independent sets were used. HLA-DRB1 allele and diplotype frequencies were compared among the ACPA-negative RF-positive RA patients, ACPA-negative RF-negative RA patients, and controls in each set. Combined results were also analyzed. A similar analysis was performed in 685 ACPA-positive RA patients classified according to their RF positivity. As a result, HLA-DRB1*04:05 and *09:01 showed strong associations with ACPA-negative RF-positive RA in the combined analysis (p = 8.8×10−6 and 0.0011, OR: 1.57 (1.28–1.91) and 1.37 (1.13–1.65), respectively). We also found that HLA-DR14 and the HLA-DR8 homozygote were associated with ACPA-negative RF-negative RA (p = 0.00022 and 0.00013, OR: 1.52 (1.21–1.89) and 3.08 (1.68–5.64), respectively). These association tendencies were found in each set. On the contrary, we could not detect any significant differences between ACPA-positive RA subsets. As a conclusion, ACPA-negative RA includes two genetically distinct subsets according to RF positivity in Japan, which display different associations with HLA-DRB1. ACPA-negative RF-positive RA is strongly associated with HLA-DRB1*04:05 and *09:01. ACPA-negative RF-negative RA is associated with DR14 and the HLA-DR8 homozygote.
PMCID: PMC3391228  PMID: 22792215
12.  HLA‐Cw6 and HLA‐DRB1*07 together are associated with less severe joint disease in psoriatic arthritis 
Annals of the Rheumatic Diseases  2007;66(6):807-811.
Human leucocyte antigen (HLA) genes predict disease severity in psoriasis (HLA‐Cw6) and rheumatoid arthritis (shared epitope (SE)), but the situation is unclear for psoriatic arthritis (PsA).
To determine the association of the HLA‐Cw6 and HLA‐DRB1 gene with disease severity in a large UK cohort with PsA.
Genotyping of the HLA‐Cw and HLA‐DRB1 loci was undertaken in DNA samples from patients with PsA (n = 480). Stratification and regression analysis were used within the PsA cases to determine whether HLA‐Cw6, HLA‐DRB1 or the presence of the SE alleles predicted disease severity as measured by the Health Assessment Questionnaire score, the total number of damaged or involved joints adjusted for disease duration and disease‐modifying antirheumatic treatments.
HLA‐Cw6 was found to be in linkage disequilibrium with HLA‐DRB1*07 (r2 = 0.46). Patients with PsA who carried both HLA‐Cw6 and HLA‐DRB1*07 had fewer damaged or involved joints (41% fewer damaged (95% CI 23% to 55%, p = 0.02) and 31% fewer involved joints (95% CI 16% to 44%, p<0.001)) compared with those who carried neither HLA‐Cw6 nor HLA‐DRB1*07 alleles. Those who carried either HLA‐Cw6 or HLA‐DRB1*07 alleles alone had no evidence of a reduction in joint involvement. The SE, HLA‐DRB1*03 and HLA‐DRB1*04 alleles did not predict severity using these outcome measures.
Patients with PsA carrying both HLA‐Cw6 and HLA‐DRB1*07 alleles have a less severe course of arthritis. This suggests that a protective locus lies on a haplotype marked by these alleles. No association was detected with disease severity and SE status.
PMCID: PMC1954651  PMID: 17223660
13.  A shared HLA-DRB1 epitope in the DR beta first domain is associated with Vogt-Koyanagi-Harada syndrome in Indian patients 
Molecular Vision  2010;16:353-358.
Vogt-Koyanagi-Harada (VKH) disease and sympathetic ophthalmia (SO) are two distinct entities that share common clinical and histopathological features; however, it remains unknown whether they have a common genetic susceptibility. Several studies have shown an association of human leukocyte antigen (HLA)-DR4 with VKH disease in patients of different ethnic backgrounds. We present in this paper the HLA-DRB1 genotyping analysis of a large cohort of VKH patients from southern India and compare these patients to patients with SO and to healthy individuals from the same geographic area.
VKH patients were diagnosed according to the revised criteria of the International Committee on VKH disease. Patients with granulomatous uveitis after ocular trauma or multiple eye surgeries were diagnosed as having SO. Genomic DNA was extracted from all patients and controls. Samples were analyzed for HLA-DRB1 alleles by reverse polymerase chain reaction (PCR) sequence-specific oligonucleotide (SSO) hybridization on microbeads, using the Luminex technology, and by PCR sequence-specific primers (SSP) typing for DRB1*04 allele determination. Strength of associations was estimated by odds ratios (OR) and 95% confidence intervals (CI) and frequencies were compared using the Fisher’s exact test.
HLA-DRB1 alleles were determined in 94 VKH patients, 39 SO patients, and 112 healthy controls. HLA-DRB1*04 frequency was higher in VKH patients (20.2% versus 10.3% in controls; OR=2.2, p=0.005, pc=0.067). This association was lower than the association of HLA-DRB1*04 frequency in cohorts of patients from different origins. No significant DR4 association with SO was detected. HLA-DRB1*0405 and HLA-DRB1*0410 alleles were significantly increased in VKH patients (8.5% versus 0.9% in controls; OR=10.3, 95% CI=2.34–45.5, p<0.001). These two alleles share the epitope S57-LLEQRRAA (67–74) in the third hypervariable region of the HLA-DR molecule. None of the DRB1 alleles was significantly associated with SO.
Based on the association of HLA-DRB1*0405 and HLA-DRB1*0410 alleles with VKH disease, we propose that the epitope S57-LLEQRRAA (67–74) in the third hypervariable region of the HLA-DRβ1 molecule is the relevant susceptibility epitope. This genetic component seems specific to VKH disease since no correlation could be identified in SO patients. The weaker association with HLA-DR4 in this VKH patient cohort compared to VKH patients from northern India is probably related to the lower frequency of HLA-DRB1*0405 in our study group. The HLA-DRB1 association with susceptibility to VKH syndrome seems weaker in Indian patients compared to Japanese or Hispanic patients, suggesting a different non-HLA immunogenetic background in Indian VKH patients.
PMCID: PMC2834567  PMID: 20216938
14.  HLA-DRB1 shared epitope genotyping using the revised classification and its association with circulating autoantibodies, acute phase reactants, cytokines and clinical indices of disease activity in a cohort of South African rheumatoid arthritis patients 
Arthritis Research & Therapy  2011;13(5):R160.
The revised shared epitope (SE) concept in rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is based on the presence (S) or absence (X) of the SE RAA amino acid motif at positions 72 to 74 of the third hypervariable region of the various human leucocyte antigen (HLA)-DRB1 alleles. The purpose of this study was to investigate SE subtypes on the basis of the American College of Rheumatology 1987 revised criteria for the classification of RA in a cohort of South African RA patients (n = 143) and their association with clinical and circulating biomarkers of disease activity (autoantibodies, acute phase reactants and cytokines).
Genomic DNA was analysed using high-resolution recombinant sequence-specific oligonucleotide PCR typing of the HLA-DRB1 allele. Subtypes of the SE were classified according to the amino acids at positions 72 to 74 for the RAA sequence, and further sub-divided according to the amino acids at positions 70 and 71, which either contribute to (S2, S3P), or negate (S1, S3D) RA susceptibility. Disease activity was assessed on the basis of (1) Disease Activity Score in 28 joints using C-reactive protein (CRP), (2) rheumatoid factor (RF), (3) CRP and (4) serum amyloid A by nephelometry, anticyclic citrullinated peptide antibodies (aCCP) by an immunofluorometric procedure, and cytokines by multiplex bead array technology.
Of the 143 RA patients, 81 (57%) were homozygous (SS) and 50 (35%) were heterozygous (SX) for the SE alleles with significant overexpression of S2 and S3P (respective odds ratios (ORs) 5.3 and 5.8; P < 0.0001), and 12 (8%) were classified as no SE allele (XX). Both the SS and SX groups showed a strong association with aCCP positivity (OR = 10.2 and P = 0.0010, OR = 9.2 and P = 0.0028, respectively) relative to the XX group. Clinical scores and concentrations of the other biomarkers of disease activity (RF, CRP and T helper cell type 1 (Th1), Th2, macrophage and fibroblast cytokines) were also generally higher in the SS group than in the SX and XX groups.
RA susceptibility alleles investigated according to revised criteria for the classification of RA were significantly increased in South African RA patients and strongly associated with aCCP in particular as well as with circulating cytokines and disease severity.
PMCID: PMC3308093  PMID: 21978430
anticyclic citrullinated peptide antibodies; C-reactive protein; fibroblast cytokines; macrophage cytokines; rheumatoid factor; serum amyloid A; Th1/Th2 cytokines
15.  The HLA–DRB1 Shared Epitope Is Associated With Susceptibility to Rheumatoid Arthritis in African Americans Through European Genetic Admixture 
Arthritis and rheumatism  2008;58(2):349-358.
To determine whether shared epitope (SE)–containing HLA–DRB1 alleles are associated with rheumatoid arthritis (RA) in African Americans and whether their presence is associated with higher degrees of global (genome-wide) genetic admixture from the European population.
In this multicenter cohort study, African Americans with early RA and matched control subjects were analyzed. In addition to measurement of serum anti–cyclic citrullinated peptide (anti-CCP) antibodies and HLA–DRB1 genotyping, a panel of >1,200 ancestry-informative markers was analyzed in patients with RA and control subjects, to estimate the proportion of European ancestry.
The frequency of SE-containing HLA–DRB1 alleles was 25.2% in African American patients with RA versus 13.6% in control subjects (P = 0.00005). Of 321 patients with RA, 42.1% had at least 1 SE-containing allele, compared with 25.3% of 166 control subjects (P = 0.0004). The mean estimated percent European ancestry was associated with SE-containing HLA–DRB1 alleles in African Americans, regardless of disease status (RA or control). As reported in RA patients of European ancestry, there was a significant association of the SE with the presence of the anti-CCP antibody: 86 (48.9%) of 176 patients with anti-CCP antibody–positive RA had at least 1 SE allele, compared with 36 (32.7%) of 110 patients with anti-CCP antibody–negative RA (P = 0.01, by chi-square test).
HLA–DRB1 alleles containing the SE are strongly associated with susceptibility to RA in African Americans. The absolute contribution is less than that reported in RA among populations of European ancestry, in which ~50–70% of patients have at least 1 SE allele. As in Europeans with RA, the SE association was strongest in the subset of African American patients with anti-CCP antibodies. The finding of a higher degree of European ancestry among African Americans with SE alleles suggests that a genetic risk factor for RA was introduced into the African American population through admixture, thus making these individuals more susceptible to subsequent environmental or unknown factors that trigger the disease.
PMCID: PMC3726059  PMID: 18240241
16.  HLA‐DRB1*0404 is strongly associated with anticalpastatin antibodies in rheumatoid arthritis 
Annals of the Rheumatic Diseases  2007;66(12):1588-1593.
To test whether HLA‐DR alleles influence the production of particular autoantibodies in rheumatoid arthritis (RA) patients, we screened synovial proteins with sera of RA patients homozygous for different HLA‐DR alleles by using 2D blots. We found that sera of RA patients homozygous for HLA‐DRB1*0404 recognised a 100‐kDa synovial protein identified as calpastatin. We studied B and T cell epitopes on calpastatin and their association with HLA‐DRB1*0404.
The frequency of positive sera in patients expressing different RA‐associated HLA‐DR allele combinations was calculated by inhouse ELISA using purified synovial calpastatin or calpastatin peptides encompassing the entire calpastatin protein as immunosorbent. Interaction between calpastatin peptides and HLA‐DR alleles was tested by a direct binding assay. T cell responses to calpastatin were measured in RA patients and controls.
We found that RA‐associated HLA‐DR alleles are associated with presence of autoantibodies to synovial calpastatin in RA patients' sera. HLA‐DRB1*0404 is strongly associated with antisynovial calpastatin in RA sera. One linear B cell epitope is preferentially associated with HLA‐DRB1*0404. Multiple peptides from calpastatin bind every tested HLA‐DR allele associated or not with RA. Peptides from domain 1 and 4 of calpastatin are the best HLA‐DR allele binders. The T cell response to calpastatin is frequent in RA patients and independent of the HLA‐DR background.
HLA‐DRB1*0404 is strongly associated with anticalpastatin antibodies in rheumatoid arthritis.
PMCID: PMC2095311  PMID: 17324966
17.  Influence of HLA DRB1 alleles in the susceptibility of rheumatoid arthritis and the regulation of antibodies against citrullinated proteins and rheumatoid factor 
The purpose of this study was to investigate the association between HLA-DRB1 alleles with susceptibility to rheumatoid arthritis (RA) and production of antibodies against citrullinated proteins (ACPA) and rheumatoid factor (RF).
We studied 408 patients (235 with RA, 173 non-RA) and 269 controls. ACPA, RF and HLA-DR typing were determined.
We found an increased frequency of HLA DRB1 alleles with the shared epitope (SE) in ACPA-positive RA. Inversely, HLA DRB1 alleles encoding DERAA sequences were more frequent in controls than in ACPA-positive RA, and a similar trend was found for HLA DR3. However, these results could not be confirmed after stratification for the presence of the SE, probably due to the relatively low number of patients. These data may suggest that the presence of these alleles may confer a protective role for ACPA-positive RA. In RA patients we observed association between SE alleles and ACPA titers in a dose-dependent effect. The presence of HLA DR3 or DERAA-encoding alleles was associated with markedly reduced ACPA levels. No association between RF titers and HLA DR3 or DERAA-encoding alleles was found.
HLA DRB1 alleles with the SE are associated with production of ACPA. DERAA-encoding HLA-DR alleles and HLA DR3 may be protective for ACPA-positive RA.
PMCID: PMC2888213  PMID: 20370905
18.  Influence of the HLA-DRβ shared epitope on susceptibility to and clinical expression of rheumatoid arthritis in Chilean patients 
Annals of the Rheumatic Diseases  1997;56(3):191-193.
OBJECTIVE—To analyse the influence of shared epitope positive HLA-DRB1 alleles (QKRAA or QRRAA) ) on rheumatoid arthritis (RA) susceptibility and severity in Chileans, a population that exhibits a weak association with HLA-DR4.
METHODS—Prevalence of alleles DRB1*01 and DRB1*04 alleles was determined by polymerase chain reaction amplification and sequence specific oligonucleotide hybridisation in 129 RA patients with defined clinical features and in 97 healthy controls.
RESULTS—The shared epitope was found in 70 (54%) of the RA patients and in 29 (30%) of controls (odds ratio (OR) =3; 95% confidence intervals (CI) = 1.5, 5.1; p = 0.0004), and was present in a double dose in 20% of patients versus 4% of controls (OR = 6; 95% CI = 2, 21; p = 0.0009). HLA-DRB1*0403 was the most prevalent DR4 subtype in controls (19%). HLA-DRB1*0404 or *0408 were the alleles most prominently associated with RA, 19% versus 6 % in controls (OR=3; 95% CI = 1.3, 10; p = 0.01). The risk of RA in those carrying a double dose of the shared epitope was 7.5 times that seen in patients lacking the epitope. Disease severity was moderate: 33% had extra-articular manifestations. The double dose was associated with an increased risk of vasculitis or extra-articular manifestations. However, 59 patients (46%) did not carry the shared epitope and 18 of them (31%) had extra-articular manifestations.
CONCLUSIONS—The weak association of RA with DR4 in Chileans seems to relate to a relatively high frequency of the DRB1*0403 allele among DR4 subtypes. As in other populations, the shared epitope in double dose is associated with RA development, especially in its more severe forms. However, both development and expression of severe forms of the disease were independent of the shared epitope in a high proportion of patients, thus emphasising the genetic heterogeneity of the disease and the possible involvement of other genetic elements.

PMCID: PMC1752342  PMID: 9135224
19.  Increase of HLA-DRB1*0408 and -DQB1*0301 in HLA-B27 positive reactive arthritis 
OBJECTIVE—To study HLA class II association in reactive arthritis.
METHODS—63 patients with reactive arth-ritis and 46 with rheumatoid arthritis were included in the study. HLA-DR alleles were determined by using a sequence specific PCR method. Oligonucleotide hybridisation was used for definition of DRB1*04 subtypes and DQB1 alleles. HLA-B27 was determined by standard microcytotoxity test or by PCR. HLA-B27 subtyping was made by sequencing.
RESULTS—46 (73%) of 63 patients with reactive arthritis were HLA-B27 positive and 24 (38%) were HLA-DRB1*04 positive. When haplotypes were inferred according to the known associations between DRB1 and DQB1 alleles, the frequency of DRB1*04-DQB1*0301 haplotype was found to be 13% (12/92) in HLA-B27 positive reactive arthritis patients, in contrast to 0% in HLA-B27 negative reactive arthritis (P = 0.04) and 1% in random controls (P = 0.0009). However, this combination was also found in 5% of 84 HLA-B27 positive control haplotypes, showing a linkage disequilibrium between B27 and this particular class II haplotype. HLA-DRB1*0408 subtype was found in 8/24 (33%) of the HLA-DRB1*04 alleles in patients with reactive arthritis, accounting for most DQB1*0301 haplotypes, but only in 5/55 (9%) of the DRB1*04 alleles in random controls (P = 0.017). All reactive arthritis patients with this subtype were positive for HLA-B27. DRB1*04-DQB1*0302 haplotype was increased in patients with rheumatoid arthritis (28/92, 30%) compared with reactive arthritis (12/126, 10%) or with the controls (12/100, 12%; P = 0.003). HLA-B*2705 was by far the dominant B27 subtype both in reactive arthritis patients with the particular DRB1*0408-DQB1*0301 haplotype and in controls. It was found in 11 out of 12 DR analysed patients, as well as in 10 out of 11 randomly selected B27 positive controls.
CONCLUSIONS—Although no single class II allele was found to be increased among patients with reactive arthritis, HLA-B27, DRB1*0408, and DQB1*0301 might exert a haplotypic effect in the pathogenesis of reactive arthritis, or they may be markers of a subset of B27 haplotypes conferring susceptibility.

PMCID: PMC1752258  PMID: 9059139
20.  Association of IL4R single-nucleotide polymorphisms with rheumatoid nodules in African Americans with rheumatoid arthritis 
To determine whether IL4R single-nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) rs1805010 (I50V) and rs1801275 (Q551R), which have been associated with disease severity in rheumatoid arthritis (RA) patients of European ancestry, relate to the presence of rheumatoid nodules and radiographic erosions in African Americans.
Two IL4R SNPs, rs1805010 and rs1801275, were genotyped in 749 patients from the Consortium for Longitudinal Evaluation of African-Americans with Early Rheumatoid Arthritis (CLEAR) registries. End points were rheumatoid nodules defined as present either by physical examination or by chest radiography and radiographic erosions (radiographs of hands/wrists and feet were scored using the modified Sharp/van der Heijde system). Statistical analyses were performed by using logistic regression modeling adjusted for confounding factors.
Of the 749 patients with RA, 156 (20.8%) had rheumatoid nodules, with a mean age of 47.0 years, 84.6% female gender, and median disease duration of 1.9 years. Of the 461 patients with available radiographic data, 185 (40.1%) had erosions (score >0); their mean age was 46.7 years; 83.3% were women; and median disease duration was 1.5 years. Patients positive for HLA-DRB1 shared epitope (SE) and autoantibodies (rheumatoid factor (RF) or anti-cyclic citrullinated peptide (CCP)) had a higher risk of developing rheumatoid nodules in the presence of the AA and AG alleles of rs1801275 (odds ratio (OR)adj = 8.08 (95% confidence interval (CI): 1.60-40.89), P = 0.01 and ORadj = 2.97 (95% CI, 1.08 to 8.17), P = 0.04, respectively). Likewise, patients positive for the HLA-DRB1 SE and RF alone had a higher risk of developing rheumatoid nodules in presence of the AA and AG alleles of rs1801275 (ORadj = 8.45 (95% CI, 1.57 to 45.44), P = 0.01, and ORadj = 3.57 (95% CI, 1.18 to 10.76), P = 0.02, respectively) and in the presence of AA allele of rs1805010 (ORadj = 4.52 (95% CI, 1.20 to 17.03), P = 0.03). No significant association was found between IL4R and radiographic erosions or disease susceptibility, although our statistical power was limited by relatively small numbers of cases and controls.
We found that IL4R SNPs, rs1801275 and rs1805010, are associated with rheumatoid nodules in autoantibody-positive African-American RA patients with at least one HLA-DRB1 allele encoding the SE. These findings highlight the need for analysis of genetic factors associated with clinical RA phenotypes in different racial/ethnic populations.
PMCID: PMC2911851  PMID: 20444266
21.  Delineating the Role of the HLA-DR4 “Shared Epitope” in Susceptibility versus Resistance to Develop Arthritis1 
In humans, HLA-DR alleles sharing amino acids at the third hypervariable region with DRB1*0401(shared epitope) are associated with a predisposition to rheumatoid arthritis, whereas DRB1*0402 is not associated with such a predisposition. Both DRB1*0402 and DRB1*0401 occur in linkage with DQ8 (DQB1*0302). We have previously shown that transgenic (Tg) mice expressing HLA-DRB1*0401 develop collagen-induced arthritis. To delineate the role of “shared epitope” and gene complementation between DR and DQ in arthritis, we generated DRB1*0402, DRB1*0401.DQ8, and DRB1*0402.DQ8 Tg mice lacking endogenous class II molecules, AEo. DRB1*0402 mice are resistant to develop arthritis. In double-Tg mice, the DRB1*0401 gene contributes to the development of collagen-induced arthritis, whereas DRB1*0402 prevents the disease. Humoral response to type II collagen is not defective in resistant mice, although cellular response to type II collagen is lower in *0402 mice compared with *0401 mice. *0402 mice have lower numbers of T cells in thymus compared with *0401 mice, suggesting that the protective effect could be due to deletion of autoreactive T cells. Additionally, DRB1*0402 mice have a higher number of regulatory T cells and show increased activation-induced cell death, which might contribute toward protection. In DRB1*0401.DQ8 mice, activated CD4+ T cells express class II genes and can present DR4- and DQ8-restricted peptides in vitro, suggesting a role of class II+ CD4 T cells locally in the joints. The data suggest that polymorphism in DRB1 genes determines predisposition to develop arthritis by shaping the T cell repertoire in thymus and activating autoreactive or regulatory T cells.
PMCID: PMC3932339  PMID: 18684978
22.  Association of polymorphism in glutathione S-transferase loci with susceptibility and outcome in rheumatoid arthritis: comparison with the shared epitope 
Annals of the Rheumatic Diseases  1999;58(3):164-168.
OBJECTIVE—To determine whether glutathione S-transferase GSTM1, GSTM3, GSTT1, and GSTP1 genotypes influence susceptibility or outcome in rheumatoid arthritis (RA).
METHODS—277 RA patients were compared with 577 controls to examine any associations between GST genotypes and susceptibility to RA. The effect of genotypes on outcome (Larsen and functional scores) and time integrated acute phase responses (erythrocyte sedimentation rate and C reactive protein) was assessed in 122 patients with disease duration of 5-10 years. GST and HLA-DRB1 genotypes were determined using polymerase chain reaction based assays. Data were analysed using multiple regression analysis with correction for age, sex, disease duration, and the DRB1 associated shared epitope (SE) and rheumatoid factor (RF) positivity where appropriate.
RESULTS—The GSTM1*A/*B genotype was less common in RA cases (3 of 276) than in controls (22 of 591) (exact p=0.047), though significance was lost when adjustment was made for multiple comparisons. The Larsen score was higher (p=0.039) in the GSTM1 null patients (89.9) than those with other GSTM1 genotypes (74.7), and this was independent of the SE. Again, correction for multiple testing resulted in loss of significance. The difference in Larsen scores between patients homozygous or negative for the SE (87.9 v 74.3) was similar to that between GSTM1 null and non-null patients. No associations between GSTM3 or GSTT1 genotypes and disease markers were identified although the association between GSTP1*B/*B and Larsen score approached significance (p=0.096).
CONCLUSION—It is proposed that certain GSTs may influence susceptibility and radiological progression in RA and that this is independent of the effect of the HLA-DRB1 associated SE. The mechanism for this effect is presumed to be because of differences in the ability of various GST enzymes to utilise the cytotoxic products of oxidant stress. Although significance was lost after correction for multiple testing, the data indicate that further studies may be of value in RA to determine the influence of the GST and other genes involved in cellular protection against oxidative stress.

 Keywords: rheumatoid arthritis; glutathione S-transferase; polymorphism; shared epitope
PMCID: PMC1752853  PMID: 10364914
23.  Targeting the Immunogenetic Diseases with the Appropriate HLA Molecular Typing: Critical Appraisal on 2666 Patients Typed in One Single Centre 
BioMed Research International  2013;2013:904247.
We compared the immunogenetic data from 2666 patients affected by HLA-related autoimmune diseases with those from 4389 ethnically matched controls (3157 cord blood donors CBD, 1232 adult bone marrow donors BMD), to verify the appropriateness of HLA typing requests received in the past decade. The frequency of HLA-B∗27 phenotype was 10.50% in 724 ankylosing spondylitis, 16.80% in 125 uveitis (3.41% BMD, 4.24% CBD, P < 0.0001); HLA-B∗51 allele was 15.57% in 212 Behçet's disease (12.91% BMD, 9.88% CBD, P < 0.0001); the HLA-DRB1-rheumatoid arthritis (RA) shared epitope was 13.72% in 554 RA (10.85% BMD, 13.48% CBD, P = 0.016); the carriers of almost one of HLA-DQB1 susceptibility alleles were 84.91% in 795 celiac disease (CD) and 59.37% in 256 insulin-dependent diabetes mellitus (IDDM) (46.06% in 875 CBD, 42.75% in 662 BMD P < 0.0001). Overall, our results show that the HLA marker frequencies were higher in patients than controls, but lower than expected from the literature data (excluding CD and IDDM) and demonstrate that, in complex immunogenetic conditions, a substantial number of genetic analyses are redundant and inappropriate, burdening to the public health costs. For this reason, we suggest the Italian Scientific Society of Immunogenetics to establish guidelines to improve the appropriateness of typing requests.
PMCID: PMC3581126  PMID: 23509798
24.  HLA-DMA*0103 and HLA-DMB*0104 alleles as novel prognostic factors in rheumatoid arthritis 
Annals of the Rheumatic Diseases  2004;63(12):1581-1586.
Objective: To evaluate HLA-DM alleles as markers for disease severity in rheumatoid arthritis (RA).
Methods: Two distinct cohorts of patients with RA were oligotyped for HLA-DB1 and HLA-DM genes using PCR amplified genomic DNA with sequence specific oligonucleotide probes. Cohort 1 comprised 199 unselected patients with RA (mean (SD) age 45.5 (13.5) years; disease duration 11.9(8.8) years), whose disease severity was assessed using Larsen score on hand and foot radiographs. Cohort 2 comprised 95 patients with severe RA and 70 patients with benign RA according to the Larsen method.
Results: In cohort 1, after stratification according to DRB1 genotypes, patients positive for HLA-DMA*0103 and negative for HLA-DRB1*04 tended to have greater articular damage on hands and wrists (p = 0.07 by Mann-Whitney U test) and reached statistical significance for the Larsen score per year (p = 0.05). This association between HLA-DMA*0103 and articular damage was especially observed in patients with HLA-DRB1*01. Similarly, HLA-DMB*0104 positive patients had higher Larsen score on hands and wrists (p = 0.02). This association was even stronger in DRB1*04 positive patients (p = 0.005). In cohort 2, HLA-DMA*0103 was associated with severe RA in patients negative for HLA-DRB1*04 (OD = 5.4; p = 0.014). HLA-DMB*0104 allele frequency tended to be higher in patients with severe RA but without reaching significance.
Conclusion: This is the first study evaluating the role of HLA-DM genes in the severity of RA. Our results suggest that HLA-DMA*0103 and HLA-DMB*0104 alleles may represent new genetic markers of RA severity. The HLA-DMA*0103 allele tends to be associated with patients with RA negative for DRB1*04 and could predict a more severe form of disease especially in HLA-DRB1*01 positive patients. The HLA-DMB*0104 allele could have an additive effect in HLA-DRB1*04 patients. Combined determination of HLA-DM and HLA-DRB1 alleles could facilitate identification of patients likely to have a poor disease course.
PMCID: PMC1754841  PMID: 15547082
25.  Investigating the role of the HLA-Cw*06 and HLA-DRB1 genes in susceptibility to psoriatic arthritis: comparison with psoriasis and undifferentiated inflammatory arthritis 
Annals of the Rheumatic Diseases  2007;67(5):677-682.
Psoriasis of early onset (type I; age of onset ⩽40 years) is associated with HLA-Cw*06 while the shared epitope (SE) is associated with rheumatoid arthritis susceptibility. Our aim was to investigate the role of HLA-Cw*06 and HLA-DRB1 genes (including SE) with psoriatic arthritis (PsA) susceptibility.
In a case–control association study, HLA-Cw*06 phenotype frequencies were compared between patients with PsA (n = 480), psoriasis alone (n = 611) and healthy controls (n = 166). Similarly, at the HLA-DRB1 locus, phenotype and SE frequencies were compared in patients with PsA (n = 480), early undifferentiated inflammatory arthritis alone (n = 1621) and healthy controls (n = 537).
The HLA-Cw*06 phenotype was associated with type I psoriasis (OR 6.9, 95% CI 4.4, 11.1, p = 2.2×10−21) and with patients with PsA having type I psoriasis (OR 5.0, 95% CI 3.2, 7.9, p = 4.39×10−13), but not with patients with PsA having type II psoriasis (age of onset >40 years). HLA-DRB1*07, in linkage disequilibrium with HLA-Cw*06, was also associated with patients with PsA having type I psoriasis (OR 2.7, 95% CI 2.1, 3.7, p<0.00001). HLA-DRB1*04 alleles and the SE were associated with undifferentiated inflammatory arthritis but not with PsA.
The SE is not a PsA susceptibility locus. HLA-Cw*06 and HLA-DRB1*07 are associated with patients with PsA having type I psoriasis, suggesting that the primary association is with age of onset of psoriasis. Patients with PsA having type I psoriasis, therefore, have a genetic background different to those with type II psoriasis, and adjustment for this is necessary in future studies that investigate the genetic susceptibility of PsA.
PMCID: PMC2563264  PMID: 17728335

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