Methylation differences at the HLA-DRB1 locus in CD4+ T-Cells are associated with multiple sclerosis

Moira C. Graves, Miles C. Benton, R. A. Lea, Frances M. Boyle, L. Tajouri, D. Macartney-Coxson, Rodney J. Scott, Jeannette Lechner-Scott

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

107 Citations (Scopus)


Background: Multiple sclerosis (MS) is thought to be caused by T-cell mediated autoimmune dysfunction. Risk ofdeveloping MS is influenced by environmental and genetic factors. Modifiable differences in DNA methylation arerecognized as epigenetic contributors to MS risk and may provide a valuable link between environmental exposure andinherited genetic systems.Objectives and methods: To identify methylation changes associated with MS, we performed a genome-wide DNAmethylation analysis of CD4+ T cells from 30 patients with relapsing-remitting MS and 28 healthy controls using Illumina450K methylation arrays.Results: A striking differential methylation signal was observed at chr. 6p21, with a peak signal at HLA-DRB1. Afterprioritisation, we identified a panel of 74 CpGs associated with MS in this cohort. Most notably we found evidence of amajor effect CpG island in DRB1 in MS cases (pFDR <3 x 10-3). In addition, we found 55 non-HLA CpGs that exhibiteddifferential methylation, many of which localise to genes previously linked to MS.Conclusions: Our findings provide the first evidence for association of DNA methylation at HLA-DRB1 in relation toMS risk. Further studies are now warranted to validate and understand how these findings are involved in MS pathology.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1033-1041
Number of pages9
JournalMultiple Sclerosis
Issue number8
Publication statusPublished - 2014


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