A substantial genetic contribution to systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) risk is conferred by major histocompatibility complex (MHC) gene(s) on chromosome 6p21. Previous studies in SLE have lacked statistical power and genetic resolution to fully define MHC influences. We characterized 1,610 Caucasian SLE cases and 1,470 parents for 1,974 MHC SNPs, the highly polymorphic HLA-DRB1 locus, and a panel of ancestry informative markers. Single-marker analyses revealed strong signals for SNPs within several MHC regions, as well as with HLA-DRB1 (global p = 9.99×10−16). The most strongly associated DRB1 alleles were: *0301 (odds ratio, OR = 2.21, p = 2.53×10−12), *1401 (OR = 0.50, p = 0.0002), and *1501 (OR = 1.39, p = 0.0032). The MHC region SNP demonstrating the strongest evidence of association with SLE was rs3117103, with OR = 2.44 and p = 2.80×10−13. Conditional haplotype and stepwise logistic regression analyses identified strong evidence for association between SLE and the extended class I, class I, class III, class II, and the extended class II MHC regions. Sequential removal of SLE–associated DRB1 haplotypes revealed independent effects due to variation within OR2H2 (extended class I, rs362521, p = 0.006), CREBL1 (class III, rs8283, p = 0.01), and DQB2 (class II, rs7769979, p = 0.003, and rs10947345, p = 0.0004). Further, conditional haplotype analyses demonstrated that variation within MICB (class I, rs3828903, p = 0.006) also contributes to SLE risk independent of HLA-DRB1*0301. Our results for the first time delineate with high resolution several MHC regions with independent contributions to SLE risk. We provide a list of candidate variants based on biologic and functional considerations that may be causally related to SLE risk and warrant further investigation.
Systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) is an autoimmune disease characterized by autoantibody production and involvement of multiple organ systems. Although the cause of SLE remains unknown, several lines of evidence underscore the importance of genetic factors. As is true for most autoimmune diseases, a substantial genetic contribution to disease risk is conferred by major histocompatibility complex (MHC) gene(s) on chromosome 6. This region of the genome contains a large number of genes that participate in the immune response. However, the full contribution of this genomic region to SLE risk has not yet been defined. In the current study we characterize a large number of SLE patients and family members for approximately 2,000 MHC region variants to identify the specific genes that influence disease risk. Our results, for the first time, implicate four different MHC regions in SLE risk. We provide a list of candidate variants based on biologic and functional considerations that may be causally related to SLE risk and warrant further investigation.