The purpose of this study was to clarify the association of HLA-DRB1 and -DPB1 alleles with multiple sclerosis (MS) in Japanese, to determine whether optico-spinal MS (OS-MS) and conventional MS are immunogenetically distinct, and to verify the role of gender difference in HLA associations of MS. We studied HLA-DRB1 and -DPB1 polymorphisms in 166 Japanese patients with MS. Forty-seven patients were classified as having the optico-spinal MS (OS-MS) and 119 as having conventional MS. A lack of DPB1*0301 and a higher frequency of DPB1*0501 compared with controls (corrected P < 0.0074; odds ratio = 9.48) were found in OS-MS. By contrast, we found for the first time an association of DPB1*0301 with conventional MS in Japanese (corrected P = 0.0444; odds ratio = 3.28). Logistic analysis, adjusted for sex and age, revealed independent associations of DPB1*0301 (P = 0.0004, adjusted odds ratio (aOR) = 4.70), DPB1*0501 (P = 0.0081, aOR = 2.50) and DRB1*1501 (P = 0.0252, aOR = 2.21) with conventional MS. However, the frequencies of DRB1*1501 and DPB1*0501 in male patients with conventional MS were equal to those in male controls while the DPB1*0301 frequency was increased in both male and female patients. We did not find any association of these HLA alleles with disease course and severity. In conclusion, OS-MS is a DPB1*0501-associated distinct subtype of MS, and DPB1*0301 is the most strongly associated allele with conventional MS in Japanese. In addition, gender plays an important role in HLA association with MS.
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