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Original Investigation
July 2016

Association of HLA Genetic Risk Burden With Disease Phenotypes in Multiple Sclerosis

Author Affiliations
  • 1Department of Neurology, School of Medicine, University of California, San Francisco
  • 2Department of Neurology, University Hospital Basel, University of Basel, Basel, Switzerland
  • 3Biological and Medical Informatics, University of California, San Francisco
  • 4Institute of Human Genetics, University of California, San Francisco
  • 5Bioengineering Graduate Group, University of California, San Francisco and Berkeley
  • 6Department of Radiology and Biomedical Imaging, University of California, San Francisco
JAMA Neurol. 2016;73(7):795-802. doi:10.1001/jamaneurol.2016.0980

Importance  Although multiple HLA alleles associated with multiple sclerosis (MS) risk have been identified, genotype-phenotype studies in the HLA region remain scarce and inconclusive.

Objectives  To investigate whether MS risk-associated HLA alleles also affect disease phenotypes.

Design, Setting, and Participants  A cross-sectional, case-control study comprising 652 patients with MS who had comprehensive phenotypic information and 455 individuals of European origin serving as controls was conducted at a single academic research site. Patients evaluated at the Multiple Sclerosis Center at University of California, San Francisco between July 2004 and September 2005 were invited to participate. Spinal cord imaging in the data set was acquired between July 2013 and March 2014; analysis was performed between December 2014 and December 2015.

Main Outcomes and Measures  Cumulative HLA genetic burden (HLAGB) calculated using the most updated MS-associated HLA alleles vs clinical and magnetic resonance imaging outcomes, including age at onset, disease severity, conversion time from clinically isolated syndrome to clinically definite MS, fractions of cortical and subcortical gray matter and cerebral white matter, brain lesion volume, spinal cord gray and white matter areas, upper cervical cord area, and the ratio of gray matter to the upper cervical cord area. Multivariate modeling was applied separately for each sex data set.

Results  Of the 652 patients with MS, 586 had no missing genetic data and were included in the HLAGB analysis. In these 586 patients (404 women [68.9%]; mean [SD] age at disease onset, 33.6 [9.4] years), HLAGB was higher than in controls (median [IQR], 0.7 [0-1.4] and 0 [−0.3 to 0.5], respectively; P = 1.8 × 10−27). A total of 619 (95.8%) had relapsing-onset MS and 27 (4.2%) had progressive-onset MS. No significant difference was observed between relapsing-onset MS and primary progressive MS. A higher HLAGB was associated with younger age at onset and the atrophy of subcortical gray matter fraction in women with relapsing-onset MS (standard β = −1.20 × 10−1; P = 1.7 × 10−2 and standard β = −1.67 × 10−1; P = 2.3 × 10−4, respectively), which were driven mainly by the HLA-DRB1*15:01 haplotype. In addition, we observed the distinct role of the HLA-A*24:02-B*07:02-DRB1*15:01 haplotype among the other common DRB1*15:01 haplotypes and a nominally protective effect of HLA-B*44:02 to the subcortical gray atrophy (standard β = −1.28 × 10−1; P = 5.1 × 10−3 and standard β = 9.52 × 10−2; P = 3.6 × 10−2, respectively).

Conclusions and Relevance  We confirm and extend previous observations linking HLA MS susceptibility alleles with disease progression and specific clinical and magnetic resonance imaging phenotypic traits.