It has been suggested that HLA-DR4 is a marker of genetic predisposition to proliferative retinopathy. To investigate this relationship and potential associations between other polymorphic genes and proliferative retinopathy, a sample (n = 428) of participants in the population-based Wisconsin Epidemiologic Study of Diabetic Retinopathy was selected for typing for HLA-A, -B, -C, and -DR and a panel of other polymorphic genes. The presence of proliferative retinopathy was determined from grading of stereoscopic color fundus photographs taken at 2 examinations, 4 yr apart. In logistic regression models with repeated measures, persons with HLA-DR4 who were negative for DR3 were five times more likely to have proliferative retinopathy than those negative for both antigens after adjusting for other potential risk factors (Odds ratio = 5.43, 95% Confidence Interval (Cl) = 1.04, 28.30). HLA-C2, AK-2, and MNSs-S also were associated positively with proliferative retinopathy, and HLA-DR8 was associated inversely with this complication of diabetes in each case before adjusting for the number of comparisons. These data suggest that the genetically determined immunopathic mechanisms leading to diabetes, and in linkage disequilibrium with DR4, may independently contribute to the development of proliferative retinopathy.

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