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Influence of HLA-DRB1 P4 binding pocket electric charge on rheumatoid arthritis (RA) susceptibility


HLA-DRB1 alleles coding for the shared epitope (SE), an amino acid motif in the third hypervariable region of the beta 1 chain of HLA-DR, are associated with RA. The underlying biological mechanism is unknown. A model was recently proposed (Reviron et al. Arthritis Rheum 2001; 44:535–540), based on the electric charge (EC) of the fourth antigenic peptide-binding pocket (P4) of the HLA-DR molecule. SE alleles carrying a strong positive EC at P4, the model postulates that the negative EC of the P4 has a protective effect for RA that modulates the effect of the SE.


To test that model, taking advantage of familial-based association analysis.


The DNA of 100 Caucasian French families with one RA patient and both parents were genotyped for HLA-DRB1. Genotypes were stratified in susceptible (S), neutral (N) and protective (P) groups: S for the genotype SE/SE and the genotype SE/EC+ (non SE allele with a positive EC); N for the genotype SE/EC- (non SE allele with a negative EC) and the genotype EC+/EC+; P for the genotype EC-/EC- and the genotype EC-/EC+.

The analysis was performed with a genotype relative-risk method comparing the RA patient genotypes with the virtual control genotypes reconstructed from parental untransmitted alleles. The expectations from the model were: S genotype more frequent in RA, N genotype with similar frequency in RA and controls and P genotype more frequent in controls.


The S genotype was more frequent in RA (55% versus 29%, P = 1.9 × 10-4), the N genotype had similar frequencies (33% in RA versus 29% in controls, not significant) and the P genotype was more frequent in controls (42% versus 12%, P = 1.8 × 10-6).


Our results are in keeping with a protective effect of the negative EC of the P4 HLA-DR pocket modulating the SE effect on RA susceptibility.

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Michou, L., Tezenas du Montcel, S., Petit-Texeira, E. et al. Influence of HLA-DRB1 P4 binding pocket electric charge on rheumatoid arthritis (RA) susceptibility. Arthritis Res Ther 5, 71 (2003).

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  • Rheumatoid Arthritis
  • Rheumatoid Arthritis Patient
  • Electric Charge
  • Shared Epitope
  • Amino Acid Motif