An HLA-DRB1-coded signal transduction ligand facilitates inflammatory arthritis: A new mechanism of autoimmunity

Academic Article


  • Particular alleles of HLA contribute to disease susceptibility and severity in many autoimmune conditions, but the mechanisms underlying these associations are often unknown. In this study, we demonstrate that the shared epitope (SE), an HLA-DRB1-coded sequence motif that is the single most significant genetic risk factor for erosive rheumatoid arthritis, acts as a signal transduction ligand that potently activates osteoclastogenesis, both in vitro and in vivo. The SE enhanced the production of several proosteoclastogenic factors and facilitated osteoclast (OC) differentiation in mouse and human cells in vitro. Transgenic mice expressing a human HLA-DRB1 allele that code the SE motif demonstrated markedly higher propensity for osteoclastogenesis and enhanced bone degradation capacity ex vivo. In addition, the SE enhanced the differentiation of Th17 cells expressing the receptor activator for NF-κB ligand. When the two agents were combined, IL-17 and the SE enhanced OC differentiation synergistically. When administered in vivo to mice with collagen-induced arthritis, the SE ligand significantly increased arthritis severity, synovial tissue OC abundance, and bone erosion. Thus, the SE contributes to arthritis severity by activating an OC-mediated bone-destructive pathway. These findings suggest that besides determining the target specificity of autoimmune responses, HLA molecules may influence disease outcomes by shaping the pathogenic consequences of such responses. The Copyright © 2012 by The American Association of Immunologists, Inc.
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    Digital Object Identifier (doi)

    Author List

  • Holoshitz J; Liu Y; Fu J; Joseph J; Ling S; Colletta A; Sharma P; Begun D; Goldstein S; Taichman R
  • Start Page

  • 48
  • End Page

  • 57
  • Volume

  • 190
  • Issue

  • 1