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Linkage and association studies implicate the human leucocyte antigen (HLA) region in genetic susceptibility to ulcerative colitis (UC). However, associations with specific variants have been inconsistent, even within defined ethnic groups. A genetic basis for the disease heterogeneity of UC may account for these discrepant findings from studies in unselected populations. Here, we examine the contribution of the HLA region to the clinical phenotype of UC. We studied 321 accurately phenotyped patients recruited from a single UK centre, with a median follow-up time of 15 years. Individuals were genotyped for 340 polymorphisms constructed into 25 gene-specific allelic haplotypes between HLA-A and Tapasin. Data were analysed with respect to age of onset, disease extent and severity. Strongest association with overall susceptibility was identified with HLA-DRB1 alleles replicating previous studies (DRB1*0103, DRB1*1502 and DRB1*0401). We report a novel association with homozygosity of a tumour necrosis factor (TNF) promoter haplotype (TNF-1031T, -863C, -857C, -380G, -308G and -238G) and distal disease extent that does not extend with time (distal vs total 40.9 vs 25.7%; RR = 2.0; 95% CI 1.23-3.24). We confirm the association of DRB1*0103 with total disease and/or disease requiring colectomy and further demonstrate that DRB1*0103 is associated with shorter time to surgery. Genes in the HLA play a role in modifying disease phenotype. Further studies are required to dissect how these genes functionally interact with each other and with environmental factors to determine clinical patterns of disease

Original publication




Journal article


Tissue Antigens

Publication Date





527 - 535


Adolescent, Adult, Age of Onset, Aged, Child, Cohort Studies, Colitis, Ulcerative, Female, Genetic Predisposition to Disease, HLA Antigens, Haplotypes, Humans, Infant, Infant, Newborn, Major Histocompatibility Complex, Male, Middle Aged, Phenotype, Polymorphism, Single Nucleotide