HLA-DRB1 shared epitope alleles in patients with rheumatoid arthritis: relation to autoantibodies and disease severity in a south Indian population

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To investigate the presence of the ‘shared epitope’ (SE) in the HLA-DRB1 alleles in patients with RA and to ascertain the frequency of the HLA-DRB1 alleles with autoantibodies (anti-cyclic citrullinated peptide [anti-CCP] rheumatoid factor [RF]) and disease severity.


A total of 200 RA patients and 200 apparently healthy subjects participated in the study. HLA-DRB1 were genotyped using polymerase chain reaction with sequence-specific primer (PCR-SSP). Anti-CCP and RF in serum were determined by in vitro quantitative enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA) method. Erythrocyte sedimentation rate (ESR) was measured by Westergren method. Disease activity was assessed by using the disease activity score-28 (DAS-28). Chi-square test and Student's t-test were used in the statistical analysis.


A significant increase in the frequency of HLA-DRB1*01, *04, *10 and *14 were identified in RA patients and showed a strong association with the disease susceptibility. While the frequencies of HLA-DRB1*03, *07, *11 and *13 were significantly lower in RA patients than in controls. The other HLA-DRB1 alleles *08, *09, *12, *15 and *16 showed no significant difference. The frequency of anti-CCP and RF antibodies did not showed significant difference in SE-positive patients compared with SE-negative patients. DAS-28 values of RA patients showed no significant difference between SE-positive and SE-negative groups.


Our results indicate that HLA-DRB1*01, *04, *10 and *14 alleles are related with RA, while HLA-DRB1*03, *07, *11 and *13 protect against RA in our population. On the other hand, we failed to provide evidence for the association of the autoantibodies and DAS-28 with SE-positive RA patients.

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