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Abstract

Susceptibility to autoimmune hepatitis (AIH) is associated with the HLA A1-B8-DR3 haplotype, DR4 antigen, and, more specifically, the HLA DRB3*0101, DRB1*0301, and DRB1*0401 alleles. Few investigators, however, have examined the HLA C locus in AIH, which warrants detailed study in view of its recently described roles in immunoregulation. Eighty-seven adult, white patients with well-characterized type 1 AIH and 100 controls were studied. HLA C and HLA DRB1 alleles were assigned by polymerase chain reaction (PCR)-based genotyping. HLA A and B antigens were determined by standard microlymphocytotoxicity assay. Extended haplotypes were constructed according to known patterns of linkage disequilibrium. Only one HLA C locus allele, Cw*0701, which was present in 54% of patients versus 34% of controls (P = .006; relative risk [RR] = 1.54) was associated with AIH. The overall increase in the frequency of the Cw*07 gene (70.1% of patients vs. 54% of controls; P = .024; RR = 1.3) was due entirely to inheritance of the Cw*0701 allele rather than the other Cw*07 alleles, Cw*0702, *0703, and *0704. The RR for Cw*0701 (RR = 1.54) is greater than that for HLA A1 (RR = 1.33) and DRB1*0301 (RR = 1.49), but less than that for HLA-B8 (RR = 1.75). The present findings suggest that the gene or genes conferring susceptibility to AIH lie in the region centromeric to the HLA A locus between HLA C and DRB1. Although linkage disequilibrium with both B8 and DRB1*0301 may account for our finding of an increased frequency of Cw*0701, it is also possible that this allele contributes to disease susceptibility, perhaps by interaction with natural killer cells or cytotoxic T lymphocytes.