Genetic predisposition to multiple sclerosis (MS) in Sardinia (Italy) has been associated with five DRB1*-DQB1* haplotypes of the human leukocyte antigen (HLA). Given the complexity of these associations, an in-depth re-analysis was performed with the specific aims of confirming the haplotype associations; establishing the independence of the associated haplotypes; and assessing patients' genotypic risk of developing MS.
Methods and Results
A transmission disequilibrium test (TDT) of the DRB1*-DQB1* haplotypes in 943 trio families, confirmed a higher than expected transmission rate (over-transmission) of the *13:03-*03:01 (OR = 2.9, P = 7.6×10−3), *04:05-*03:01 (OR = 2.4, P = 4.4×10−6) and *03:01-*02:01 (OR = 2.1, P = 1.0×10−15) haplotype. In contrast, the *16:01-*05:02 (OR = 0.5, P = 5.4×10−11) and the *15:02-*06:01 (OR = 0.3, P = 1.5×10−3) haplotypes exhibited a lower than expected transmission rate (under-transmission). The independence of the transmission of each positively and negatively associated haplotype was confirmed relative to all positively associated haplotypes, and to the negatively associated *16:01-*05:02 haplotype. In patients, carriage of two predisposing haplotypes, or of protective haplotypes, respectively increased or decreased the patient's risk of developing MS. The risk of MS followed a multiplicative model of genotypes, which was, in order of decreasing ORs: *04:05-*0301/*03:01-*02:01 (OR = 4.5); *03:01-*02:01/*03:01-*02:01 (OR = 4.1); and the *16:01-*05:02/*16:01-*0502 (OR = 0.2) genotypes. Analysis of DRB1 and DQB1 protein chain residues showed that the Val/Gly residue at position 86 of the DRB1 chain was the only difference between the protective *16:01- *15:02 alleles and the predisposing *15:01 one. Similarly, the Ala/Val residue at position 38 of the DQB1 chain differentiated the positively associated *06:02 allele and the negatively associated *05:02, *06:01 alleles.
These findings show that the association of specific, independent DRB1*-DQB1* haplotypes confers susceptibility or resistance to MS in the MS-prone Sardinian population. The data also supports a functional role for specific residues of the DRB1 and DQB1 proteins in predisposing patients to MS.