Annals of Indian Academy of Neurology
  Users Online: 1858 Home | About the Journal | InstructionsCurrent Issue | Back IssuesLogin      Print this page Email this page  Small font size Default font size Increase font size

Table of Contents
Year : 2021  |  Volume : 24  |  Issue : 3  |  Page : 356-360

Evaluating the role of HLA DRB1 alleles and oligoclonal bands in influencing clinical course of multiple sclerosis – A study from the Mangalore demyelinating disease registry

Center for Advanced Neurological Research, KS Hegde Medical Academy, Nitte (Deemed to be University), Mangalore, Karnataka, India

Date of Submission23-May-2020
Date of Acceptance07-Jul-2020
Date of Web Publication11-Jan-2021

Correspondence Address:
Dr. Lekha Pandit
Professor of Neurology, Director of Center for Advanced Neurological Research, KS Hegde Medical Academy, Nitte (Deemed to be University), Mangalore - 575 018
Login to access the Email id

Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None

DOI: 10.4103/aian.AIAN_508_20

Rights and Permissions



Background: The possible interaction between genetic and immunological factors in influencing clinical course of multiple sclerosis (MS) has not been studied previously in Indian population. Aim: In this study we evaluated the association of HLA alleles and OCB in affecting clinical course and disability of MS. Methods: Clinical and demographic features of 145 MS patients who had CSF oligoclonal bands (OCB) tested by isoelectric focussing technique were analyzed, disability status estimated, and HLA DRB1 alleles were genotyped. Results: OCBs were positive in 53.8% (78/145) of all MS cases. Patients with CSF OCB had more frequent relapses and an association with HLA DRB1*15. Early disease onset and a high annualized relapse rate was associated with HLA DRB1*03 allele. A relapsing remitting course for MS was seen with HLA DRB1*03 & 15 while a progressive disease was associated with DRB1*01. Presence of both OCB and HLA DRB1*13 was significantly associated with disability in this cohort. Conclusion: The results of our study suggest that an interaction between immunological and genetic factors may influence disease onset, course, and disability in MS.

Keywords: HLA DRB1 alleles, multiple sclerosis, oligo clonal bands

How to cite this article:
DCunha A, Pandit L, Malli C, Sudhir A. Evaluating the role of HLA DRB1 alleles and oligoclonal bands in influencing clinical course of multiple sclerosis – A study from the Mangalore demyelinating disease registry. Ann Indian Acad Neurol 2021;24:356-60

How to cite this URL:
DCunha A, Pandit L, Malli C, Sudhir A. Evaluating the role of HLA DRB1 alleles and oligoclonal bands in influencing clinical course of multiple sclerosis – A study from the Mangalore demyelinating disease registry. Ann Indian Acad Neurol [serial online] 2021 [cited 2021 Dec 1];24:356-60. Available from:

   Introduction Top

Multiple sclerosis (MS) is a chronic autoimmune inflammatory demyelinating disorders of the central nervous system (CNS) occurring worldwide. Prevalence of MS in India is low compared to white populations of Europe and North America. A population-based prevalence study from southern India has shown a prevalence of 8.3/100,000 for MS.[1] The etiopathology of the disease is unclear and possibly involves complex interactions between environmental and genetic factors.

Immunological studies have shown that genes within the human leukocyte antigen (HLA) region account for the strongest genetic risk for MS. Among Indians the genetic susceptibility for MS appears similar to white Europeans. The strongest association signal comes from HLA-DRB1*1501 in the class II region.[2],[3],[4] Analysis of genetic variations outside the major histocompatibility complex has also shown an overlap between Indian and European populations.[5],[6] Our published studies have shown that environmental factors such as smoking and remote Epstein–Barr virus (EBV) infection which are identified risk factors in Caucasian populations are not associated with disease among Indian populations.[7]

The HLA complex is not only associated with disease susceptibility, but also may influence clinical and immunological features in patients with MS.[8] The mechanism by which such influences might occur is believed to be the interdependence between the HLA-DRB1 genotype and the phenotypic status of the oligoclonal immunoglobulin G (IgG) bands (OCBs).[9] Oligoclonal bands (OCBs) of immunoglobulin G (IgG) are detected in the CSF of significant number of MS patients and supports the diagnosis.[10],[11] Oligoclonal band (OCB) patterns differ between patients but remain constant during disease course[12],[13] and are believed to reflect the intrathecal synthesis of IgG antibodies.[14],[15] A study conducted by Rand et al. suggests that in a subset of MS patients, Epstein–Barr virus nuclear antigen 1 (EBNA-1) may be a major target of selected OCBs.[16] Interestingly our study and those of others have shown that patients who are carriers of HLA DRB1*1501 allele may have high EBNA1 titres, underscoring the intimate relationship of environmental and genetic influences in MS pathogenesis.[17],[18]

In this study we aimed to characterize the clinical course of MS patients in relation to the presence of OCBs and HLA DRB1 allele status in a subset of patients belonging to a dedicated demyelinating disease registry in south India.

   Materials and Methods Top

Patient selection

In this study 145 consecutive MS patients who had lumbar puncture performed as part of their investigations were enrolled from our registry.[19] The diagnosis of MS was made according to the revised McDonald 2017 criteria.[11] All had been tested for the presence of OCBs in paired samples by isoelectric focusing (IEF) electrophoresis prior to started disease modifying therapy.[10] This study was approved by the Institutional ethics committee and informed consent was obtained before study entry.

Evaluation of clinical course

Clinical characteristics including type of MS, gender, age at disease onset, disease duration, and treatment status were noted [Table 1]. The annualized relapse rate (ARR - calculated as number of attacks/duration of disease) and the most recent expanded disability status score (EDSS) were calculated for all patients.
Table 1: Demographic and clinical data of MS (n=145) patients

Click here to view

Oligoclonal band testing

Paired serum and CSF samples were analyzed using Hydrasys 2 Sebia (France) system as per manufacturer's instructions. Interpretation of the results was made according to the 5 classic banding patterns described.[10] Pattern 2 (presence of bands only in CSF) and 3 (presence of bands in CSF and serum with additional bands in CSF) were interpreted as positive results and indicated intrathecal IgG synthesis.

HLA-DR typing

HLA-DRB1 typing was performed by polymerase chain reaction (PCR) with sequence-specific probes.[4],[20]

EBNA1 IgG affinity immunoblotting test

It was performed in a subset of 21 patients (RRMS- 16, SPMS -5). Serum and corresponding CSF IgG of each patient was initially purified (Nab Spin Kit, Thermo Fisher Scientific). Immunoblotting was done using previously published protocol.[16]

Statistical analysis

Data analysis was performed using the IBM SPSS for Windows Version 21.0 (IBM Corp.;Armonk, NY, USA) statistical package. We compared mean age at onset of MS in different groups using the Student t-test. The comparisons of other variables (disease duration, EDSS score and annual relapse rate) were based on the Mann–Whitney test. The χ2 test was used to compare the qualitative variables and to estimate possible correlations. Odds ratios (OR) with 95% confidence interval (CI) were calculated when searching for the associations. The significance level of P values < 0.05 were considered as statistically significant. The relationship between measure of disability (EDSS) and other variables including immunological, genetic, and clinical parameters were assessed by logistic regression modelling.

   Results Top

Among 145 MS patients, 77.9% (113/145) were relapsing remitting MS (RRMS), 16.6% (24/145) were secondary progressive MS (SPMS), and 5.5% (8/145) were primary progressive MS (PPMS). The demographic features are listed in [Table 1]. Ninety one patients (62.7%) were female (gender ratio F: M - 1.7:1). Mean age at disease onset was 28.5 ± 9.5 years and mean EDSS score was 3.06 ± 2.14 [Table 1]. All patients took treatment with disease modifying agent or immune suppressive therapy for median period of 8.0 years (5.0–11.0) from the time of diagnosis.

OCBs were positive (+) in 53.8% (78/145) of all MS cases. The predominant OCB pattern detected was pattern 2 and was seen in 85.90% (67/78). Patients were stratified based on positive OCBs [Table 2]. Noticeably disease duration was significantly longer (P - 0.003) in the OCB negative (-) patients (10.4 ± 5.7) when compared to OCB positive (7.8 ± 4.4). Annualized relapse rate was significantly more frequent (P - 0.02) in OCB-positive MS patients (0.48 ± 0.33) as compared to OCB-negative (0.39 ± 0.31) patients. Mean EDSS scores were similar between the two groups. Patients who were OCB positive (14%) did not have higher disability scores (EDSS ≥ 6) than those who were OCB negative (13%, P- 0.91).
Table 2: Clinical features in MS patients based on presence or absence of Oligoclonal bands

Click here to view

We then looked at demographics and clinical course among MS patients in relation to their HLA DRB1 alleles. Age at onset was lower in DRB1*03 positive patients (23.7 ± 5.89) when compared to DRB1*03 negative patients (30.01 ± 10.10; P - 0.05). Frequency of HLA DRB1 alleles among MS subsets was analyzed [Table 3]. HLA DRB1*01 was most frequently associated with SPMS than RRMS (17% vs 1%; P - 0.002). The most frequent alleles associated with RRMS were HLA DRB1* 03 (11% vs. 0%; P - 0.03) and HLA DRB1*15 (47.7% vs 21.7%; P - 0.02). This association persisted when data was stratified for presence of OCB (data not shown). HLA DRB1*15 frequency was significant in OCB positive 42 (54%) versus OCB negative is 24 (36%) P = 0.04, OR = 0.47 (0.24–0.93).
Table 3: Frequency of HLA DRB1 alleles in relapsing remitting (RR) MS and secondary progressive (SP) MS patients

Click here to view

A two-way analysis of variance (ANOVA) test was done to evaluate the effect of OCB status and HLA allele frequency on disability scores [Table 4]. Disability was significant in OCB positive patients who had HLA DRB1*13 allele when compared to OCB negative MS, (EDSS 10.0 ± 0.0 vs. 3.77 ± 1.12; P - 0.001). There were no significant associations between other alleles, presence of OCB, and disability.
Table 4: HLA DRB1 allele, oligo clonal bands and their interaction to disability (two-factorial analysis)

Click here to view

We also estimated the impact of immunological, genetic, and clinical variables on disease progression [Table 5] using logistic regression models. Age at onset of disease and disease duration were independent and significant factors for progression of disability with each newly added HLA DRBI allele. In addition HLA DRB1*13 showed a significant association with disability progression independent of all other factors.
Table 5: Logistic regression model for disability prediction in MS (comparison of EDSS scores against OCB presence, HLA DRB1 alleles, age, gender, disease duration and relapse rate)

Click here to view

Among the 21 patients in whom EBNA1 IgG affinity immunoblot was done, there was evidence of intrathecal IgG synthesis for EBV in 28.5% (6/21). There was no difference in disability scores in positive patients (EDSS - 2.58 ± 2.93) when compared to Immunoblot negative patients (3.67 ± 3.69; P - 0.60). A third of these patients (2/6) were HLA DRB1*1501 positive.

   Discussion Top

Among Indian patients with MS, HLA DRB1*15 followed by DRB1*03 have been significantly associated with disease susceptibility. In the 80s, published reports on MS from India have shown low CSF OCBs (30%).[21] More recently in a small study that included OCB as a diagnostic criterion, OCB was detected in 16/18 (85%) patients with MS.[22] Refinement of diagnostic criteria (which removed “optical spinal variants”) and better techniques for OCB testing have probably contributed to improved detection. MS was diagnosed in our registry using McDonald 2017 criteria,[11] and from among them 145 patients who had consented to a lumbar puncture were included and 53.8% had CSF OCBs.

The impact of OCB on clinical course of MS is not clear. While some studies show that presence of OCB is associated with a more aggressive disease course and disability progression[23],[24],[25] others suggest a more benign course.[26] Our study suggests that OCB-positive patients have higher annualized relapse rate. Patients who were OCB negative had a longer disease duration compared to those without and this suggests the possibility that OCB may appear early in the course of MS. However, OCB-negative MS patients resembled OCB positive patients in several aspects and included female preponderance, similar age at onset and disease course.

While several studies have established the role of HLA DRB1 alleles in influencing the risk of acquiring MS,[3],[4] it is unclear whether there is a role in altering disease course and disability. HLA DRB1*15 has been reported in some studies to be associated with earlier onset of disease and poor outcome.[3],[27],[28] HLA DR B1*04 has also been linked to MS disability.[29] In our study immunogenetic associations were detected which suggested an influence on clinical features of MS. Early age of disease onset and a relapsing remitting course was associated with DRB1*03, while an increase in annualized relapse rate was noted in carriers of both HLA DRB1*03 and DRB1*15. Progressive MS was seen more often in patients carrying HLA DRB1*01. OCB-positive MS was most often associated with HLA DRB1*15. Disability was significantly associated with patients who were OCB positive and carried HLA DRB1*13 allele. HLA DRB1* 13 has been identified in previous studies as an important susceptibility allele,[30] but its role in disability was not studied. Age at onset and disability status were significant factors associated with disability, independent of HLA alleles and OCB presence and has been previously described.[31]

Antigen-specific banding pattern for EBNA-1 was observed in 6/21 (28.5%) MS patients, indicating there is an evidence of intrathecal IgG synthesis for EBV in small number of patients as previously described.[19] Some studies16 suggest that in a subset of MS patients, EBNA-1 may be a major target of selected OCBs. There is however no evidence that its presence indicates a role for an EBV-driven chronic infection in MS. It is more likely that EBV-specific intrathecal oligoclonal IgG production seen in a subset of MS patients may be a part of humoral response driven by chronic brain inflammation.

In conclusion, in our study cohort, 53.8% of MS patients tested prior to initiating treatment, had CSF OCBs. These patients resembled OCB-negative patients in all respects except that had more frequent relapses. There were distinct genetic associations noted with disease onset, high relapse rate, disability progression, and presence of OCB. The results of our study suggest that presence of OCB and the HLA DRB1 allele subtypes may influence clinical course of MS. Our study was limited by the small number of patients included. A future study including a larger patient cohort is needed to determine the effect of immunogenetics and OCB in determining clinical course and disability in MS among patients in India.

Financial support and sponsorship


Conflicts of interest

There are no conflicts of interest.

   References Top

Pandit L, Kundapur R. Prevalence and patterns of demyelinating central nervous system disorders in urban Mangalore, South India. Mult Scler 2014;20:1651-3.  Back to cited text no. 1
Kankonkar S, Jeyanthi G, Singhal BS, Shankarkumar U. Evidence for novel DRB1*15 allele association among clinically definite multiple sclerosis patients from Mumbai, India. Human Immunol 2003;64:478-82.  Back to cited text no. 2
Ramagopalan SV, Ebers GC. Multiple sclerosis: Major histocompatibility complexity and antigen presentation. Genome Med 2009;1:105-8.  Back to cited text no. 3
Pandit L, Malli C, Singhal B, Wason J, Malik O, Sawcer S, et al. HLA associations in South Asian multiple sclerosis. Mult Scler 2016;22:19-24.  Back to cited text no. 4
Pandit L, Ban M, Sawcer S, Singhal B, Nair S, Radhakrishnan K, et al. Evaluation of the established non-MHC multiple sclerosis loci in an Indian population. Mult Scler 2011;17:139-43.  Back to cited text no. 5
Pandit L, Ban M, Beecham AH, McCauley JL, Sawcer S, D'Cunha A, et al. European multiple sclerosis risk variants in the south Asian population. Mult Scler 2016;22:1536-40.  Back to cited text no. 6
Malli C, Pandit L, D'Cunha A, Mustafa S. Environmental factors related to multiple sclerosis in Indian population. PLoS One 2015;10:e0124064. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone. 0124064.  Back to cited text no. 7
Oksenberg JR, Baranzini SE. Multiple sclerosis genetics – is the glass half full, or half empty. Nat Rev Neurol 2010;6:429-37.  Back to cited text no. 8
Imrell K, Greiner E, Hillert J, Mastermann T. HLADRB1*15 and cerebrospinal fluid specific oligoclonal immunoglobulin G bands lower age at attainment of important disease milestones in multiple sclerosis. J Neuroimmunol 2009;210:128-30.  Back to cited text no. 9
Freedman MS, Thompson EJ, Deisenhammer F, Giovannoni G, Grimsley G, Keir G, et al. Recommended standard of cerebrospinal fluid analysis in the diagnosis of multiple sclerosis: A consensus statement. Arch Neurol 2005;62:865-70.  Back to cited text no. 10
Thompson AJ, Banwell B, Barkhof F, Carroll WM, Coetzee T, Comi G, et al. Diagnosis of multiple sclerosis: 2017 revisions of the McDonald criteria. Lancet Neurol 2018;17:162-73.  Back to cited text no. 11
Correale J, Molinas MMB. Oligoclonal bands and antibody responses in multiple sclerosis. J Neurol 2002;249:375-89.  Back to cited text no. 12
Bergamaschi R, Tonietti S, Franciotta D, Candeloro E, Tavazzi E, Piccolo G, et al. Oligoclonal bands in Devic's Neuromyelitis optica and multiple sclerosis: Differences in repeated cerebrospinal fluid examinations. Mult Scler 2004;10:2-4.  Back to cited text no. 13
Idiman E, Ozakbas S, Dogan Y, Kosehasanogullari G. The significance of oligoclonal bands in multiple sclerosis: Relevance of demographic and clinical features, and immunogenetic backgrounds. J Neuroimmunol 2009;212:121-4.  Back to cited text no. 14
Villar LM, Masterman T, Casanova B, Gomez-Rial J, Espino M, Sadaba MC, et al. CSF oligoclonal band patterns reveal disease heterogeneity in multiple sclerosis. J Neuroimmunol 2009;211:101-4.  Back to cited text no. 15
Rand KH, Houck H, Denslow ND, Heilman K. Epstein-Barr virus nuclear antigen-1 (EBNA-1) associated oligoclonal bands in patients with multiple sclerosis. J Neurol Sci 2000;173:32-9.  Back to cited text no. 16
Pandit L, Malli C, D'Cunha A, Shetty R, Singhal B. Association of Epstein—Barr virus with multiple sclerosis in India. J Neurol Sci 2013;325:86-9.  Back to cited text no. 17
De Jager PL, Simon KC, Munger KL, Rioux JD, Hafler DA, Ascherio A. Integrating risk factors: HLA-DRB1*1501 and Epstein-Barr virus in multiple sclerosis. Neurology 2008;70:1113-8.  Back to cited text no. 18
Pandit L, Mustafa S, Kunder R, Shetty R, Misri Z, Pai S, et al. Optimizing the management of neuromyelitisoptica and spectrum disorders in resource poor settings: Experience from the Mangalore demyelinating disease registry. Ann Indian Acad Neurol 2013;16:572-6.  Back to cited text no. 19
[PUBMED]  [Full text]  
Olerup O, Zetterquist H. HLA-DR typing by PCR amplification with sequence-specific primers (PCR SSP) in 2 hours: An alternative to serological DR typing in clinical practice including donor-recipient matching in cadaveric transplantation. Tissue Antigens 1992;39:225-35.  Back to cited text no. 20
Gupta S, Varadarajulu R, Ganjoo RK. Beta-interferons in multiple sclerosis: A single centre experience in India. Ann Indian Acad Neurol 2010;13:132-5.  Back to cited text no. 21
[PUBMED]  [Full text]  
Jain S, Maheshwari MC. Multiple sclerosis: Indian experience in the last thirty years. Neuroepidemiology 1985;4:96-107.  Back to cited text no. 22
Gama PD, Machado L dos R, Livramento JA, Gomes HR, Adoni T, Lino AM, et al. Study of oligoclonal bands restricted to the cerebrospinal fluid in multiple sclerosis patients in the city of São Paulo. Arq Neuropsiquiatr 2009;67:1017-22.  Back to cited text no. 23
Koch M, Heersema D, Mostert J, Teelken A, De Keyser J. Cerebrospinal fluid oligoclonal bands and progression of disability in multiple sclerosis. Eur J Neurol 2007;14:797-800.  Back to cited text no. 24
Siritho S, Freedman MS. The prognostic significance of cerebrospinal fluid in multiple sclerosis. J Neurol Sci 2009;279:21-5.  Back to cited text no. 25
Sá MJ, Sequeira L, Rio ME, Thompson EJ. Oligoclonal IgG bands in the cerebrospinal fluid of Portuguese patients with multiple sclerosis: Negative results indicate benign disease. Arq Neuropsiquiatr 2005;63:375-9.  Back to cited text no. 26
Dyment DA, Ebers GC, Sadovnick AD. Genetics of multiple sclerosis. Lancet Neurol 2004;3:104-10.  Back to cited text no. 27
Čierny D, Lehotský J, Kantorová E, Sivák S, Javor J, Kurča E, et al. The HLA-DRB1 and HLA-DQB1 alleles are associated with multiple sclerosis disability progression in Slovak population. Neurol Res 2018;40:607-14.  Back to cited text no. 28
Hemmer B, Nessler S, Zhou D, Kieseier B, Hartung HP. Immunopathogenesis and immunotherapy of multiple sclerosis. Nat Clin Pract Neurol 2006;2:201-11.  Back to cited text no. 29
Cocco E, Sardu C, Pieroni E, Valentini M, Murru R, Gianna C, et al. HLA-DRB1-DQB1 haplotypes confer susceptibility and resistance to multiple sclerosis in Sardinia. PLoS One 2012;7:e33972. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone. 0033972.  Back to cited text no. 30
Balnyte R, Rastenyte D, Vaitkus A, Skrodeniene E, Vitkauskiene A, Ulozeine I. Associations of HLA DRB1 alleles with IgG oligoclonal bands and their influence on multiple sclerosis course and disability status. Medicina (Kaunas) 2016;52:217-22.  Back to cited text no. 31


  [Table 1], [Table 2], [Table 3], [Table 4], [Table 5]


Print this article  Email this article


    Similar in PUBMED
   Search Pubmed for
   Search in Google Scholar for
 Related articles
    Article in PDF (323 KB)
    Citation Manager
    Access Statistics
    Reader Comments
    Email Alert *
    Add to My List *
* Registration required (free)  

   Materials and Me...
    Article Tables

 Article Access Statistics
    PDF Downloaded54    
    Comments [Add]    

Recommend this journal