Next-generation targeted sequencing of HLA-DRB1 and HLA-DRB3, -DRB4, and -DRB5 (abbreviated as DRB345) provides high resolution of functional variant positions to investigate their associations with type 1 diabetes risk and with autoantibodies against insulin (IAA), GAD65 (GADA), IA-2 (IA-2A), and ZnT8 (ZnT8A). To overcome exceptional DR sequence complexity as a result of high polymorphisms and extended linkage disequilibrium among the DR loci, we applied a novel recursive organizer (ROR) to discover disease-associated amino acid residues. ROR distills disease-associated DR sequences and identifies 11 residues of DRB1, sequences of which retain all significant associations observed by DR genes. Furthermore, all 11 residues locate under/adjoining the peptide-binding groove of DRB1, suggesting a plausible functional mechanism through peptide binding. The 15 residues of DRB345, located respectively in the β49–55 homodimerization patch and on the face of the molecule shown to interact with and bind to the accessory molecule CD4, retain their significant disease associations. Further ROR analysis of DR associations with autoantibodies finds that DRB1 residues significantly associated with ZnT8A and DRB345 residues with GADA. The strongest association is between four residues (β14, β25, β71, and β73) and IA-2A, in which the sequence ERKA confers a risk association (odds ratio 2.15, P = 10–18), and another sequence, ERKG, confers a protective association (odds ratio 0.59, P = 10–11), despite a difference of only one amino acid. Because motifs of identified residues capture potentially causal DR associations with type 1 diabetes, this list of residuals is expected to include corresponding causal residues in this study population.
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