A total of 231 sibships of the same sex (186 female, 45 male), in which the proband had classical or definite rheumatoid arthritis (RA) have been selected from rheumatology clinics. Each sibship member was questioned about symptomatic joints, which were then examined. Hospital records, radiographs, and rheumatoid factor measurements allowed each sibling to be classified as having classical, definite, probable, or no RA. Each sibling was typed for HLA-A and B and was classified as sharing two, one, or zero HLA haplotypes with the proband. Concordance rates for classical and definite RA were three times greater in sibships of women than of men (9.3 v 3.0%). Concordance rates in HLA identical sibships were twice those in hemi- and non-identical sibships (15.5, 7.1, and 5.2%, respectively). Probable RA was more common in male and HLA hemi- and non-identical sibships. These results suggest that female sex and the two inherited HLA haplotypes are important for the presence and expression of RA. Although environmental factors may be shared more in twins than siblings, a concordance rate of 20.5% in seropositive HLA identical sibships of the same sex compared with 30% in monozygotic twins suggests that sex and HLA type account for about two thirds of the inherited risk of RA.
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