The immune system has been implicated in the pathophysiology of cutaneous squamous cell carcinoma (cSCC) as evidenced by the substantially increased risk of cSCC in immunosuppressed individuals. Associations between cSCC risk and single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) in the HLA region have been identified by genome-wide association studies (GWAS). The translation of the associated HLA SNPs to structural amino acids changes in HLA molecules has not been previously elucidated.
Using data from a GWAS that included 7238 cSCC cases and 56,961 controls of non-Hispanic white ancestry, we imputed classical alleles and corresponding amino acid changes in HLA genes. Logistic regression models were used to examine associations between cSCC risk and genotyped or imputed SNPs, classical HLA alleles, and amino acid changes.
Among the genotyped SNPs, cSCC risk was associated with rs28535317 (OR = 1.20, p = 9.88 × 10) corresponding to an amino-acid change from phenylalanine to leucine at codon 26 of HLA-DRB1 (OR = 1.17, p = 2.48 × 10). An additional independent association was observed for a threonine to isoleucine change at codon 107 of HLA-DQA1 (OR = 1.14, p = 2.34 × 10). Among the classical HLA alleles, cSCC was associated with DRB1*01 (OR = 1.18, p = 5.86 × 10). Conditional analyses revealed additional independent cSCC associations with DQA1*05:01 and DQA1*05:05. Extended haplotype analysis was used to complement the imputed haplotypes, which identified three extended haplotypes in the HLA-DR and HLA-DQ regions.
Associations with specific HLA-DR and -DQ alleles are likely to explain previously observed GWAS signals in the HLA region associated with cSCC risk.