HLA molecules play an important role for immunoreactivity in allogeneic hematopoietic stem cell transplantation. To elucidate the effect of specific HLA alleles on acute graft-versus-host disease, we conducted a retrospective analysis using 6967 Japanese patients transplanted with T-cell-replete marrow from an unrelated donor. Using unbiased searches of patient and donor HLA alleles, patient and/or donor HLA-B*51:01 (patient: HR, 1.37, P<0.001; donor: HR, 1.35, P<0.001) and patient HLA-C*14:02 (HR, 1.35, P<0.001) were significantly associated with an increased risk of severe acute graft-versus- host disease. The finding that donor HLA-C*14:02 was not associated with severe acute graft-versus-host disease prompted us to elucidate the relation of these high-risk HLA alleles with patient and donor HLAC allele mismatches. In comparison to HLA-C allele match, patient mismatched HLA-C*14:02 showed the highest risk of severe acute graft-versus- host disease (HR, 3.61, P<0.001) and transplant-related mortality (HR, 2.53, P<0.001) among all patient mismatched HLA-C alleles. Although patient HLA-C*14:02 and donor HLA-C*15:02 mismatch was usually KIR2DL-ligand mismatch in the graft-versus-host direction, the risk of patient mismatched HLA-C*14:02 for severe acute graft-versushost disease was obvious regardless of KIR2DL-ligand matching. The effect of patient and/or donor HLA-B*51:01 on acute graft-versus-host disease was attributed not only to strong linkage disequilibrium of HLAC* 14:02 and -B*51:01, but also to the effect of HLA-B*51:01 itself. With regard to clinical implications, patient mismatched HLA-C*14:02 proved to be a potent risk factor for severe acute graft-versus-host disease and mortality, and should be considered a non-permissive HLA-C mismatch in donor selection for unrelated donor hematopoietic stem cell transplantation.
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