The HLA-DRB1 and HLA-DQB1 regions contains a gene variants that are linked to susceptibility to MS. It is thought that Epstein Barr virus may be a trigger for MS and this paper links genetic variants associated with MS to immune responses in the form of antibody responses to EBV, indicating the presence of infection in certain HLA types. This response did not link to the presence of other gene variants, Is this causally related it is difficult to say and only provides indirect evidence of an association. The study below also indicates this is just an association as there can be elevated levels of anti-EBV antibodies in people that do not appear to have the HLA risk alleles and indicates that this link is not specific to MS, so what is the difference between MS and SLE (an non-organ specific autoimmune disease)?
Csuka et al. Serum concentration of immunoglobulin G-type antibodies against the whole Epstein-Barr nuclear antigen 1 and its aa35-58 or aa398-404 fragments in the sera of patients with systemic lupus erythematosus and multiple sclerosis. Clin Exp Immunol. 2013;171:255-62
Several studies suggest that infection by Epstein-Barr virus (EBV) might be one of the environmental factors which facilitates the development of autoimmune disorders in genetically susceptible individuals. Recent data indicate that high anti-Epstein-Barr nuclear antigen 1 (EBNA)-1 immunoglobulin (Ig)G titre is a strong risk factor for multiple sclerosis (MS) in patients both with and without the main genetic predisposing trait, human leucocyte antigen (HLA)-DRB1*15:01. Because no similar studies have been published in systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) patients, we determined the HLA-DRB1*15:01 carrier state and the serum titres against the whole EBNA-1 and its small fragments aa35-58 and aa398-404 in 301 SLE patients, 135 MS patients and in 345 healthy controls. The carrier state of the HLA-DRB1*15:01 allele was deduced from genotyping of a tagSNP (rs3135388) by applying a Taqman-based assay. The serum concentrations of antibodies to EBNA-1 and its aa35-58 or aa398-404 fragments were determined using a commercial assay (ETI-EBNA-G) and home-made enzyme-linked immunosorbent assays, respectively. The serum concentration of anti-EBNA-1 antibodies was significantly (P < 0·001) higher both in MS and SLE patients than in controls. Similar significant differences were found both in HLA-DRB1*15:01 carriers and non-carriers. Furthermore, titres of antibodies against the aa35-58 EBNA-1 fragment were elevated both in MS and SLE patients. By contrast, the levels of aa398-404 EBNA-1 antibodies were elevated significantly only in the SLE patients. These findings indicate that high anti-EBNA-1 IgG titres are HLA-DRB1*15:01-independent risk factors not only for MS, but also for SLE, while high antibody titres against the aa398-404 fragment are characteristic for SLE.
Rubicz et al. A Genome-Wide Integrative Genomic Study Localizes Genetic Factors Influencing Antibodies against Epstein-Barr Virus Nuclear Antigen 1 (EBNA-1). PLoS Genet. 2013 Jan;9(1):e1003147. doi: 10.1371/journal.pgen.1003147.
Infection with Epstein-Barr virus (EBV) is highly prevalent worldwide, and it has been associated with infectious mononucleosis and severe diseases including Burkitt lymphoma, Hodgkin lymphoma, nasopharyngeal lymphoma, and lymphoproliferative disorders. Although EBV has been the focus of extensive research, much still remains unknown concerning what makes some individuals more sensitive to infection and to adverse outcomes as a result of infection. Here we use an integrative genomics approach in order to localize genetic factors influencing levels of Epstein Barr virus (EBV) nuclear antigen-1 (EBNA-1) IgG antibodies, as a measure of history of infection with this pathogen, in large Mexican American families. Genome-wide evidence of both significant linkage and association was obtained on chromosome 6 in the human leucocyte antigen (HLA) region and replicated in an independent Mexican American sample of large families (minimum p-value in combined analysis of both datasets is 1.4×10(-15) for SNPs rs477515 and rs2516049). Conditional association analyses indicate the presence of at least two separate loci within MHC class II, and along with lymphocyte expression data suggest genes HLA-DRB1 and HLA-DQB1 as the best candidates. The association signals are specific to EBV and are not found with IgG antibodies to 12 other pathogens examined, and therefore do not simply reveal a general HLA effect. We investigated whether SNPs significantly associated with diseases in which EBV is known or suspected to play a role (namely nasopharyngeal lymphoma, Hodgkin lymphoma, systemic lupus erythematosus, and multiple sclerosis) also show evidence of associated with EBNA-1 antibody levels, finding an overlap only for the HLA locus, but none elsewhere in the genome. The significance of this work is that a major locus related to EBV infection has been identified, which may ultimately reveal the underlying mechanisms by which the immune system regulates infection with this pathogen.