Genetic association of HLA DQB1 with CD4+ CD25+high T-cell apoptosis in type 1 diabetes

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Type 1 diabetes (T1D) has a strong genetic component and the major locus lies in the HLA DQB1 region. We found earlier an increased apoptosis with decreased viability and function of the CD4+ CD25+high T-cell subset (Treg) in human subjects with recent-onset T1D and in multiple autoantibody-positive, high at-risk individuals. Tregs normally inhibit or delay onset of T1D in animal models and increased Treg apoptosis could bring on or accelerate disease from effector T-cell-mediated destruction of insulin-producing beta cells. In this study, we test the hypothesis that HLA DQB1 genotypes are associated with increased CD4+ CD25+high T-cell apoptosis. HLA DQ-based genetic risk status was significantly associated with CD4+ CD25+high T-cell apoptosis, after adjustment for age, gender and phenotypic status (n=83, F=4.04 (d.f.=3), P=0.01). Unaffected, autoantibody-negative high risk HLA DQB1 control subjects showed increased CD4+ CD25+high apoptosis levels compared with low risk HLA DQB1 control subjects (n=26, P=0.002), confirming that the association precedes disease. The association of specific HLA DQB1 genotypes with Treg apoptosis was also tested, showing significance for HLA DQB1*0302, DQB1*0201 and HLA DQB1*0602 alleles. Our study shows an association of HLA DQB1 genotypes with CD4+ CD25+high T-cell apoptosis, which implicates CD4+ CD25+high T-cell apoptosis as a new intermediate trait for T1D.

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