We investigated the polymorphic second exon of the HLA-DPB1 and HLA-DRB1 genes, using in vitro DNA amplification by polymerase chain reaction (PCR) and oligonucleotide hybridization in 136 patients with early onset pauciarticular juvenile chronic arthritis (EOPA-JCA) and 199 healthy controls. The analysis of the HLA-DRB1 system revealed that most of the DRB1 alleles are not indifferent with respect to susceptibility to EOPA-JCA. There is a hierarchy of susceptible (DRB1*08, DR5), "permissive" (DRB1*01), moderately "protective" (DR2, DRB1*04), and "protective" (DRB1*07) alleles. In contrast, no hierarchy could be shown for the HLA-DPB1 system. DPB1*0201 was found to be susceptible. The relatively frequent alleles DPB1*0402 and DPB1*0401 seem to be indifferent. The associations with DPB1*0201, DR5, and DRB1*08 are independent of each other: that is to say they, are not brought about by linkage disequilibrium. The susceptible alleles DPB1*0201 and DR5 show evidence for interaction in the pathogenesis of EOPA-JCA. Interaction seems likely between DPB1*0201 and DRB1*08, DR5 and DRB1*08, or between DR6 and DRB1*08. The strongest interaction exists between DPB1*0201 and a common DQ factor associated with both DR5 and DRB1*08. Finally, we observed a hierarchy among the various marker combinations, where the risk of developing EOPA-JCA increases with the number of associated markers present in an individual.
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