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Immunol Cell Biol. 1996 Oct;74(5):444-8.

Peptide binding function and the paradox of HLA disease associations.

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Department of Biology, Pennsylvania State University, University Park 16802, USA.


Many studies have found associations between HLA loci and susceptibility or resistance to both infectious and autoimmune diseases, but often subsequent studies fail to find the same association. Such inconsistencies are not surprising if we consider what is known of the population biology and evolution of HLA genes, especially the consequences of natural selection favouring heterozygosity in the peptide binding regions (PBR) of HLA molecules. Because of past recombination event and/or convergent evolution, alleles that are not closely related in overall sequence may come to resemble each other in the PBR. Because peptide binding is likely to be important for the role of HLA molecules in both infectious and autoimmune disease, a strategy of searching for HLA disease associations that groups alleles in functional categories based on PBR motifs may prove more successful than conventional strategies. Likewise, in developing approaches for molecular typing, it may be advisable to develop methods that group alleles on the basis of shared PBR motifs rather than simply on the basis of shared primer sites in less functionally important regions.

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