Importance of human leukocyte antigen (HLA) class I and II alleles on the risk of multiple sclerosis

Jenny Link
Ingrid Kockum
Aslaug R. Lorentzen
Benedicte A. Lie
Elizabeth G. Celius
Helga Westerlind
Marie Schaffer
Lars Alfredsson
Tomas Olsson
Boel Brynedal
Hanne F. Harbo
Jan Hillert


Multiple sclerosis (MS) is a complex disease of the central nervous system of unknown etiology. The human leukocyte antigen (HLA) locus on chromosome 6 confers a considerable part of the susceptibility to MS, and the most important factor is the class II allele HLA-DRB1*15:01. In addition, we and others have previously established a protective effect of HLA-A*02. Here, we genotyped 1,784 patients and 1,660 healthy controls from Scandinavia for the HLA-A, HLA-B, HLA-C and HLA-DRB1 genes and investigated their effects on MS risk by logistic regression. Several allele groups were found to exert effects independently of DRB1*15 and A*02, in particular DRB1*01 (OR = 0.82, p = 0.034) and B*12 (including B*44/45, OR = 0.76, p = 0.0028), confirming previous reports. Furthermore, we observed interaction between allele groups: DRB1*15 and DRB1*01 (multiplicative: OR = 0.54, p = 0.0041; additive: AP = 0.47, p = 4×10−06), DRB1*15 and C*12 (multiplicative: OR = 0.37, p = 0.00035; additive: AP = 0.58, p = 2.6×10−05), indicating that the effect size of these allele groups varies when taking DRB1*15 into account. Analysis of inferred haplotypes showed that almost all DRB1*15 bearing haplotypes were risk haplotypes, and that all A*02 bearing haplotypes were protective as long as they did not carry DRB1*15. In contrast, we found one class I haplotype, carrying A*02-C*05-B*12, which abolished the risk of DRB1*15. In conclusion, these results confirms a complex role of HLA class I and II genes that goes beyond DRB1*15 and A*02, in particular by including all three classical HLA class I genes as well as functional interactions between DRB1*15 and several alleles of DRB1 and class I genes.