METHODS: We imputed the classical HLA alleles, amino acids, and haplotypes using the Immunochip genotyping data of 1260 RA cases (i.e., 530 Malays, 259 Chinese, 412 Indians, and 59 mixed ethnicities) and 1571 controls (i.e., 981 Malays, 205 Chinese, 297 Indians, and 87 mixed ethnicities) from the Malaysian Epidemiological Investigation of Rheumatoid Arthritis (MyEIRA) population-based case-control study. Stepwise logistic regression was performed to identify the independent genetic risk factors for RA within the HLA region.
RESULTS: We confirmed that the HLA-DRB1 amino acid at position 11 with valine residue conferred the strongest risk effect for ACPA-positive RA (OR = 4.26, 95% CI = 3.30-5.49, PGWAS = 7.22 × 10-29) in the Malays. Our study also revealed that HLA-DRB1 amino acid at position 96 with histidine residue was negatively associated with the risk of developing ACPA-positive RA in the Indians (OR = 0.48, 95% CI = 0.37-0.62, PGWAS = 2.58 × 10-08). Interestingly, we observed that HLA-DQB1*03:02 allele was inversely related to the risk of developing ACPA-positive RA in the Malays (OR = 0.17, 95% CI = 0.09-0.30, PGWAS = 1.60 × 10-09). No association was observed between the HLA variants and risk of developing ACPA-negative RA in any of the three major ethnic groups in Malaysia.
CONCLUSIONS: Our results demonstrate that the RA-associated genetic factors in the multi-ethnic Malaysian population are similar to those in the Caucasian population, despite significant differences in the genetic architecture of HLA region across populations. A novel and distinct independent association between the HLA-DQB1*03:02 allele and ACPA-positive RA was observed in the Malays. In common with the Caucasian population, there is little risk from HLA region for ACPA-negative RA.