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Review

Association of MHC and rheumatoid arthritis: HLA polymorphisms in phenotypic variants of rheumatoid arthritis

Cornelia M Weyand and Jörg J Goronzy

Author Affiliations

Mayo Clinic Foundation, Rochester, Minnesota, USA

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Arthritis Res 2000, 2:212-216  doi:10.1186/ar90

Published: 19 April 2000

Abstract

Genes in the human leukocyte antigen (HLA) region remain the most powerful disease risk genes in rheumatoid arthritis (RA). Several allelic variants of HLA-DRB1 genes have been associated with RA, supporting a role for T-cell receptor-HLA-antigen interactions in the pathologic process. Disease-associated HLA-DRB1 alleles are similar but not identical and certain allelic variants are preferentially enriched in patient populations with defined clinical characteristics. Also, a gene dosing effect of HLA-DRB1 alleles has been suggested by the accumulation of patients with two RA-associated alleles, especially in patient subsets with a severe disease course. Therefore, polymorphisms in HLA genes are being explored as tools to dissect the clinical heterogeneity of the rheumatoid syndrome. Besides HLA polymorphisms, other risk genes will be helpful in defining genotypic profiles correlating with disease phenotypes. One such phenotype is the type of synovial lesion generated by the patient. HLA genes in conjunction with other genetic determinants may predispose patients to a certain pathway of synovial inflammation. Also, patients may or may not develop extraarticular manifestations, which are critical in determining morbidity and mortality. HLA genes, complemented by other RA risk genes, are likely involved in shaping the T-cell repertoire, including the emergence of an unusual T-cell population characterized by the potential of vascular injury, such as seen in extraarticular RA.

Keywords:
disease risk genes; heterogeneity; synovitis; T cells; vascular injury