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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2004 Oct 26;101(43):15464-9. Epub 2004 Oct 15.

Pleiotropic effects of the 8.1 HLA haplotype in patients with autoimmune myasthenia gravis and thymus hyperplasia.

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Institut National de la Santé et de la Recherche Médicale U580 and Institut de Recherche Necker Enfants Malades, 161 Rue de Sèvres, 75743 Paris Cedex 15, France.


The 8.1 haplotype of the HLA complex has been reproducibly associated with several autoimmune diseases and traits, notably with thymus hyperplasia in patients with acquired generalized myasthenia gravis, an autoantibody-mediated disease directed at the muscle acetylcholine receptor. However, the strong linkage disequilibrium across this haplotype has prevented the identification of the causative locus, termed MYAS1. Here, we localized MYAS1 to a 1.2-Mb genome segment by reconstructing haplotypes and assessing their transmission in 73 simplex families. This segment encompasses the class III and proximal class I regions, between the BAT3 and C3-2-11 markers, therefore unambiguously excluding the class II loci. In addition, a case-control study revealed a very strong association with a core haplotype in this same region following an additive model (P=7 x 10(-11), odds ratio 6.5 for one copy and 42 for two copies of the core haplotype). Finally, we showed that this region is associated with a marked increase in serum titers of anti-acetylcholine receptor autoantibodies (P=8 x 10(-6)). Remarkably, this effect was suppressed by a second locus in cis on the 8.1 haplotype and located toward the class II region. Altogether, these data demonstrate the highly significant but complex effects of the 8.1 haplotype on the phenotype of myasthenia gravis patients and might shed light on its role in other autoimmune diseases.

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