The gene frequencies, haplotype relative risks, and zygotic assortments of HLA-DR in three ethnically defined samples of insulin-dependent diabetes mellitus (IDDM) patients were determined in a prospective family study. Although DR3 and DR4 were positively associated with IDDM in the probands of 123 northern European, 94 Ashkenazi Jewish, and 49 New York Hispanic families, significant excess of DR*3/4 heterozygotes was observed only among the probands from families of northern European ancestry. There was also a significant decrease in the frequency of Bw62,DR4 haplotypes derived by northern European patients from their mothers compared with their fathers. This difference, together with data reported in the literature, suggests that the expressivity of the susceptible genotype(s) in IDDM patients may be modified by protective maternal effects associated with Bw62,DR4 and probably other DR4 haplotypes. Samples of IDDM patients from populations with high frequencies of these modifiers should have different DR-gene frequencies contributed by fathers andmothers, capable of accounting for the observed Hardy-Weinberg disequilibrium. We postulate that, because the mechanism of action of these modifiers is distinct from that of the susceptibility gene, the difference must be considered in devising strategies for elucidation of the mode of inheritance of the disease and for understanding the molecular nature of the susceptibility.

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