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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2007 Dec 11;104(50):19966-70. Epub 2007 Dec 6.

Protective effect of noninherited maternal HLA-DR antigens on rheumatoid arthritis development.

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  • 1Departments of Immunohematology and Blood Transfusion and Rheumatology, Leiden University Medical Center, 2333 ZA, Leiden, The Netherlands.


Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is a complex genetic disorder in which the HLA-region contributes most to the genetic risk. HLA-DRB1-molecules containing the amino acid sequence DERAA (i.e., HLA-DRB1*0103, *0402, *1102, *1103, *1301, *1302, and *1304) are associated with protection from RA. It has been proposed that not only inherited but also noninherited HLA-antigens from the mother (NIMA) can influence RA-susceptibility. Up to now, no protective NIMAs were described. Here, we studied whether DERAA-containing HLA-DRB1-alleles as NIMA are associated with a protective effect. One hundred seventy-nine families were studied, 88 from the Netherlands and 91 from the United Kingdom. The frequency of DERAA-containing HLA-DRB1-alleles of the Dutch mothers (16.1%), but not of the fathers (26.2%), was lower compared with the general Dutch population (29.3%; P = 0.02). This was replicated in the English set of patients and controls (P = 0.01). Further, of all families, 45 contained at least one DERAA-negative child with RA and at least one DERAA-positive parent. The odds for the DERAA-negative RA patients of having a DERAA-positive mother was significantly lower compared with having a DERAA-positive father (OR 0.25; P = 0.003). These data show a protective NIMA-effect in a human autoimmune disease and indicate that a DERAA-positive mother can transfer protection against RA to her DERAA-negative child.

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