EBNA-1 titer gradient in families with multiple sclerosis indicates a genetic contribution

Objective

In multiplex MS families, we determined the humoral immune response to Epstein-Barr virus nuclear antigen 1 (EBNA-1)-specific immunoglobulin (IgG) titers in patients with MS, their healthy siblings, and biologically unrelated healthy spouses and investigated the role of specific genetic loci on the antiviral IgG titers.

Methods

IgG levels against EBNA-1 and varicella zoster virus (VZV) as control were measured. HLA-DRB1*1501 and HLA-A*02 tagging single-nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) were genotyped. We assessed the associations between these SNPs and antiviral IgG titers.

Results

OR for abundant EBNA-1 IgG was the highest in patients with MS and intermediate in their siblings compared with spouses. We confirmed that HLA-DRB1*1501 is associated with abundant EBNA-1 IgG. After stratification for HLA-DRB1*1501, the EBNA-1 IgG gradient was still significant in patients with MS and young siblings compared with spouses. HLA-A*02 was not explanatory for EBNA-1 IgG titer gradient. No associations for VZV IgG were found.

Conclusions

In families with MS, the EBNA-1 IgG gradient being the highest in patients with MS, intermediate in their siblings, and lowest in biologically unrelated spouses indicates a genetic contribution to EBNA-1 IgG levels that is only partially explained by HLA-DRB1*1501 carriership.

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