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Eur Respir J. 2014 Nov;44(5):1234-42. doi: 10.1183/09031936.00068014. Epub 2014 Jul 17.

Human leukocyte antigen class II variants and adult-onset asthma: does occupational allergen exposure play a role?

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For the authors' affiliations see the Acknowledgements section
For the authors' affiliations see the Acknowledgements section.


Recently, a locus centred on rs9273349 in the HLA-DQ region emerged from genome-wide association studies of adult-onset asthma. We aimed to further investigate the role of human leukocyte antigen (HLA) class II in adult-onset asthma and a possible interaction with occupational exposures. We imputed classical HLA-II alleles from 7579 single-nucleotide polymorphisms in 6025 subjects (1202 with adult-onset asthma) from European cohorts: ECRHS, SAPALDIA, EGEA and B58C, and from surveys of bakers and agricultural workers. Based on an asthma-specific job-exposure matrix, 2629 subjects had ever been exposed to high molecular weight (HMW) allergens. We explored associations between 23 common HLA-II alleles and adult-onset asthma, and tested for gene-environment interaction with occupational exposure to HMW allergens. Interaction was also tested for rs9273349. Marginal associations of classical HLA-II alleles and adult-onset asthma were not statistically significant. Interaction was detected between the DPB1*03:01 allele and exposure to HMW allergens (p = 0.009), in particular to latex (p = 0.01). In the unexposed group, the DPB1*03:01 allele was associated with adult-onset asthma (OR 0.67, 95%CI 0.53-0.86). HMW allergen exposures did not modify the association of rs9273349 with adult-onset asthma. Common classical HLA-II alleles were not marginally associated with adult-onset asthma. The association of latex exposure and adult-onset asthma may be modified by DPB1*03:01.

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