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N Engl J Med. 1997 Sep 11;337(11):748-53.

Mutation of RFXAP, a regulator of MHC class II genes, in primary MHC class II deficiency.

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Department of Genetics and Microbiology, University of Geneva Medical School, Switzerland.



Major-histocompatibility-complex (MHC) class II deficiency is an autosomal recessive primary immunodeficiency disease in which MHC class II molecules are absent. It is a genetically heterogeneous disease of gene regulation resulting from defects in several transactivating genes that regulate the expression of MHC class II genes. The mutations responsible for MHC class II deficiency are classified according to complementation group (a group in which the phenotype remains uncorrected in pairwise fusions of cells). There are three known complementation groups (A, B, and C).


To elucidate the genetic defect in patients with MHC class II deficiency that was not classified genetically, we performed direct complementation assays with the three genes known to regulate the expression of MHC class II genes, CIITA, RFX5, and RFXAP, and the relevant mutations were identified in each patient.


Mutations in the RFXAP gene were found in three patients from unrelated families, and the resulting defect was classified as belonging to a novel complementation group (D). Transfection with the wild-type RFXAP gene restored the expression of MHC class II molecules in the patients' cells.


Mutations in a novel MHC class II transactivating factor, RFXAP, can cause MHC class II deficiency. These mutations abolish the expression of MHC class II genes and lead to the same clinical picture of immunodeficiency as in patients with mutations in the other two MHC class II regulatory genes.

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