Gyllenberg A, et al. Variability in the CIITA gene interacts with HLA in multiple sclerosis. Genes Immun. 2014 Jan. doi: 10.1038/gene.2013.71.
The human leucocyte antigen (HLA) is the main genetic determinant of multiple sclerosis (MS) risk. Within the HLA, the class II HLA-DRB1*15:01 allele exerts a disease-promoting effect, whereas the class I HLA-A*02 allele is protective. The CIITA gene is crucial for expression of class II HLA molecules and has previously been found to associate with several autoimmune diseases, including MS and type 1 diabetes. We here performed association analyses with CIITA in 2000 MS cases and up to 6900 controls as well as interaction analysis with HLA. We find that the previously investigated single-nucleotide polymorphism rs4774 is associated with MS risk in cases carrying the HLA-DRB1*15 allele (P=0.01, odds ratio (OR): 1.21, 95% confidence interval (CI): 1.04-1.40) or the HLA-A*02 allele (P=0.01, OR: 1.33, 95% CI: 1.07-1.64) and that these associations are independent of the adjacent confirmed MS susceptibility gene CLEC16A. We also confirm interaction between rs4774 and HLA-DRB1*15:01 such that individuals carrying the risk allele for rs4774 and HLA-DRB1*15:01 have a higher than expected risk for MS. In conclusion, our findings support previous data that variability in the CIITA gene affects MS risk, but also that the effect is modulated by MS-associated HLA haplotypes.
CIITA is a human gene which encodes a protein called the class II, major histocompatibility complex, transactivator. This acts as a positive regulator of class II major histocompatibility complex gene transcription. We know that a genetic variant of HLADRB1 is the major gene risk factor developing MS in Northern Europeans and variants in the CIITA gene enhance that small risk.