HLA-DR is a major histocompatibility complex, MHC class II, cell surface receptor encoded by the human leukocyte antigen complex on chromosome 6 region 6p21.31. The complex of HLA-DR and its ligand, a peptide of 9 amino acids in length or longer, constitutes a ligand for the T-cell receptor (TCR). HLA (human leukocyte antigens) were originally defined as cell surface antigens that mediate graft-versus-host disease, which resulted in the rejection of tissue transplants in HLA-mismatched donors. Identification of these antigens has led to greater success and longevity in organ transplant.
HLA-DR is also involved in several autoimmune conditions, disease susceptibility and disease resistance. It is also closely linked to HLA-DQ and this linkage often makes it difficult to resolve the more causative factor in disease.
HLA-DR molecules are upregulated in response to signalling. In the instance of an infection, the peptide (such as the staphlococcal enterotoxin I peptide show in the two illustrations) is bound into a DR molecule and presented to a few of a great many T-cell receptors found on T-helper cells. These cells then bind to antigens on the surface of B-cells stimulating B-cell proliferation.
The primary function of HLA-DR is to present peptide antigens, potentially foreign in origin, to the immune system for the purpose of eliciting or suppressing T-(helper)-cell responses that eventually lead to the production of antibodies against the same peptide antigen. Antigen presenting cells (macrophages, B-cells and dendritic cells) are the cells in which DR are typically found. Increased abundance of DR 'antigen' on the cell surface is often in response to stimulation, and, therefore, DR is also a marker for immune stimulation.
The genetics of HLA-DR is complex. HLA-DR is encoded by several loci and several 'genes' of different function at each locus. The DR α-chain is encoded by the HLA-DRA locus. Unlike the other DR loci functional variation in mature DRA gene products is absent. (Note: see table Number of Variant Alleles HLA-DR Loci- reduces the potential functional combinations from ~1400 to ~400 (table is not exact because new alleles are continually being added not all new alleles are functional variants of the mature subunits)).
The DR β-chain is encoded by 4 loci, however no more than 3 functional loci are present in a single individual, and no more than two on a single chromosome. Sometimes an individual may only possess 2 copies of the same locus, DRB1*. The HLA-DRB1 locus is ubiquitous and encodes a very large number of functionally variable gene products (HLA-DR1 to HLA-DR17). The HLA-DRB3 locus encodes the HLA-DR52 specificity, is moderately variable and is variably associated with certain HLA-DRB1 types. The HLA-DRB4 locus encodes the HLA-DR53 specificity, has some variation, and is associated with certain HLA-DRB1 types. The HLA-DRB5 locus encodes the HLA-DR51 specificity, which is typically invariable, and is linked to the HLA-DR2 types.
|HLA||-A1||-B1||-B3 to -B51||Potential|
|1DRB3, DRB4, DRB5 have variable presence in humans|
HLA generally evolve through a process of gene conversion, which is a form of short distance or 'abortive' genetic recombination. Functional motifs in genes are exchanged to form new alleles, and frequently new, functionally different DR isoforms. HLA-DR represents an extreme example of this. A survey of X-linked loci reveals that most human loci have undergone fixation within the last 600,000 years, and diploid loci have undergone significant proportion of fixation in that period of time.
The level of deep branching at X-linked loci indicates loci were close to fixation or fixed at the end of the human population bottleneck 100,000 to 150,000 years ago. The HLA-DR locus represents a major exception to this observation. Based on distribution of major groupings in the human population it is possible to assert that more than a dozen major variants survived the population bottleneck. This observation is supported by the concept of a heterozygous selection coefficient operating on the HLA-DR, and at the HLA-DRB1 locus to a greater degree relative to HLA-DQB1 and HLA-DPB1. Most of the HLA alleles currently present in the human population can be explained by gene conversion between these ancient ancestral types, some that persist into the extant population.
|Serotypes of HLA-DRB1 gene products|
The table provide below links to subpages with information about distribution, genetic linkage and disease association for the HLA-DR serogroups.
|linked DRB1 antigens|
|antiphospholipid syndrome, primary||DR5||DR12|
|iritis w/juv. arthritis||DR12|
|lyme disease induced||DR4|
|T. cruzi induced||DR4||DR7||DR15|
|diabetes||juvenile (type 1)||DR3||DR4||DR17||DR18|
|fatty liver (type 2)||DR8|
|primary biliary cirrhosis||DR2||DR8|
|chronic type C||DR11|
|with Sjögren's syndrome||DR15|
|myositis||inflamatory inclusion body||DR17||DR18||DR52|
|polyglandular deficiency syndrome||DR5|
|"bout onset" multiple||DR3|
|ragweed Ra6 allergy||DR5|
|asthma, mite sensitive||DR11|
|2ndary infection, AIDS||DR3|
|grape induced anaphylaxis||DR11|
|*references are provided on linked subpages|