Narcolepsy with cataplexy is a sleep disorder caused by the loss of hypocretin-producing neurons in the hypothalamus. It is tightly associated with a specific human leukocyte antigen (HLA)-allele: HLA-DQB1*06:02. Based on this, an autoimmune process has been hypothesized. A functional HLA-DQ molecule consists of a DQα and a DQβ chain. HLA-DQB1*06:02 (DQβ) has a strong preference for binding to HLA-DQA1*01:02 (DQα), and together they form the functional DQ0602 dimer. A dosage effect would be expected if the HLA-DQ0602 dimer itself is directly involved in the aetiology. An increased expression of the HLA-DQ0602 dimer is expected in individuals homozygous for HLA-DQB1*06:02-DQA1*01:02, but is also hypothesized in individuals heterozygous for HLA-DQB1*06:02 and homozygous for HLA-DQA1*01:02. To study the impact of the expression of the HLA-DQ0602 dimer on narcolepsy susceptibility, 248 Dutch narcolepsy patients and 1272 Dutch control subjects, all of them positive for DQB1*06:02 (heterozygous and homozygous), were HLA-genotyped with attention not only to DQB1 but also to DQA1*01:02. DQB1*06:02-DQA1*01:02 homozygosity was significantly more often seen in patients compared to controls (O.R. 2.29) confirming previous observations. More importantly, a significantly higher prevalence of homozygosity for DQA1*01:02 was found in HLA-DQB1*06:02 heterozygous patients compared to controls (O.R. 2.37, p < 0.001). The latter finding clearly supports a direct role of the HLA-DQ molecule in the development of disease.
Narcolepsy Autoimmune HLA Susceptibility
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This study has been approved by the local ethics committee and has been performed in accordance with the ethical standards laid down in the 1964 Declaration of Helsinki and its later amendments.
All persons gave their informed consent prior to their inclusion in the study.
Conflict of interest
The funders had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript. Dr. Lammers has served as a paid member of the UCB advisory board and received lecture fees and conference travel support from UCB pharma. Dr. Lammers also did consultancy for UCB pharma and provided expert testimony for UCB pharma, Jazz pharmaceuticals, and Bioprojet. The other authors report no financial conflict of interest.
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