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PLoS One. 2011;6(10):e25794. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0025794. Epub 2011 Oct 18.

HLA-DRB1 may be antagonistically regulated by the coordinately evolved promoter and 3'-UTR under stabilizing selection.

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  • 1State Key Laboratory of Biocontrol, Department of Biochemistry, College of Life Sciences, Sun Yat-sen (Zhongshan) University, Guangzhou, People's Republic of China.


HLA-DRB1 is the most polymorphic MHC (major histocompatibility complex) class II gene in human, and plays a crucial role in the development and function of the immune system. Extensive polymorphisms exist in the promoter and 3'-UTR of HLA-DRB1, especially a LTR (Long terminal repeat) element in the promoter, which may be involved in the expression regulation. However, it remains unknown how the polymorphisms in the whole promoter region and 3'-UTR to regulate the gene expression. In this study, we investigated the extensive polymorphisms in the HLA-DRB1 promoter and 3'-UTR, and how these polymorphisms affect the gene expression in both independent and jointly manners. It was observed that most of the haplotypes in the DRB1 promoter and 3'-UTR were clustered into 4 conserved lineages (H1, H2, H3 and H4), and showed high linkage disequilibrium. Compared with H1 and H2 lineage, a LTR element in the promoter of H3 and H4 lineage significantly suppressed the promoter activity, whereas the activity of the linked 3'-UTR increased, leading to no apparent difference in the final expression product between H1/H2 and H3/H4 lineage. Nevertheless, compared with the plasmid with a promoter and 3'-UTR from the same lineage, the recombinant plasmid with a promoter from H2 and a 3'-UTR from H3 showed about double fold increased luciferase activity, Conversely, the recombinant plasmid with a promoter from H3 and a 3'-UTR from H2 resulted in about 2-fold decreased luciferase activity. These results indicate that the promoter and 3'-UTR of HLA-DRB1 may antagonistically regulate the gene expression, which may be subjected to stabilizing selection. These findings may provide a novel insight into the mechanisms of the diseases associated with HLA-DRB1 genes.

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