OBJECTIVE--To identify the association of HLA-DR4 subtypes with rheumatoid arthritis (RA) in Koreans. METHODS--Ninety five patients with RA and 118 normal control subjects were examined for HLA-DR antigens by serology. Subtypes of HLA-DR4 were determined by allele specific oligonucleotide typing. RESULTS--The phenotype frequency of HLA-DR4 in RA patients was significantly greater than that in controls (60.0% versus 31.4%, odds ratio (OR) 3.28, 95% confidence interval (CI) 1.79 to 6.02 (p < 0.001)), but HLA-DR6 was decreased in RA patients (15.8% versus 32.2%, OR 0.39, 95% CI 0.19 to 0.81 (p < 0.001)). When DR4 was excluded from analysis of patients and controls, the allele frequency of DR1 was significantly increased in the patients compared with controls (11.3% versus 4.5%, OR 2.73, 95% CI 0.87 to 5.95 (p < 0.001)). Forty two of 57 DR4 positive patients (73.7%) possessed DRB1*0405, which was strongly associated with RA (44.2% of patients, versus 11.9% of controls: OR 5.88, 95% CI 2.81 to 12.47 (p < 0.001)). DRB1*0403 was not found in the patients, but was present in 8.5% of controls. Examining the third hyper-variable region at position 70-74 in the DRB1*04 chain by oligotyping, we found that 52 of 57 DR4 positive patients (91.2%) carried one of the conserved amino acid sequences QRRAA or QKRAA, known to be the epitope conferring predisposition to RA. CONCLUSION--This study confirms that RA is strongly associated with DR4, especially with DRB1*0405, and that the presence of the inferred QRRAA sequence may be important in susceptibility to RA in Koreans.
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