Nolan D, Castley A, Tschochner M, James I, Qiu W, Sayer D, Christiansen FT, Witt C, Mastaglia F, Carroll W, Kermode A
The identification of a vitamin D-responsive (VDRE) motif within the HLA-DRB1*15:01 promoter region provides an attractive explanation for the combined effects of HLA-DR inheritance and vitamin D exposure on multiple sclerosis (MS) risk. We therefore sought to incorporate HLA-DRB1 promoter variation, including the VDRE motif, in an assessment of HLA-DRB1-associated MS risk.
We utilized 32 homozygous HLA cell lines (covering 17 DRB1 alleles) and 53 heterozygote MS samples (20 DRB1 alleles) for HLA-DRB1 promoter sequencing. The influence of HLA-DRB1 variation on MS risk was then assessed among 466 MS cases and 498 controls.
The majority of HLA*DRB1 alleles (including HLA-DRB1*15:01) express the functional VDRE motif, apart from HLA-DRB1*04, *07, and *09 alleles that comprise the HLA-DR53 serologic group. Allele-specific variation within functional X-box and Y-box motifs was also associated with serologically defined HLA-DR haplotypes. Incorporating these results in an analysis of MS risk, we identified a strong protective effect of HLA-DRB1*04, *07, and *09 (DR53) alleles (p = 10(-12)) and elevated risk associated with DRB1*15 and *16 (DR51) and *08 (DR8) alleles (p<10(-18)).
HLA-DRB1 groups corresponding to serologic HLA-DR profiles as well as promoter polymorphism haplotypes effectively stratified MS risk over an 11-fold range, suggesting functional relationships between risk-modifying HLA-DRB1 alleles. An independent contribution of VDRE motif variation to increase MS risk was not discernible, although vitamin D-dependent regulation of HLA-DR expression may still play an important role given that HLA-DRB1*04/*07/*09 (DR53) alleles that express the "nonresponsive" VDRE motif were associated with significantly reduced risk of MS.