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Hoffmann, R. A wiki for the life sciences where authorship matters. Nature Genetics (2008)

Notch4, a non-HLA gene in the MHC is strongly associated with the most severe form of alopecia areata.

Alopecia areata (AA) is a disorder primarily affecting the hair and nails in which associated autoimmune or atopic disease is common. Genetically, it is a complex trait with evidence of a role for genes of the major histocompatibility complex (MHC), the interleukin-1 cluster and chromosome 21 in the pathogenesis. The strongest association is with HLA class II alleles, although whether this indicates a direct contribution to the pathogenesis or results merely from linkage disequilibrium with nearby disease genes is unknown. Notch4 is a recently defined gene in the HLA class III region. Notch signalling is a direct determinant of keratinocyte growth arrest and entry into differentiation. A possible role for Notch in hair growth has been indicated by transgenic mouse findings that activation of the Notch pathway in the hair cortex leads to aberrant differentiation of adjacent hair-shaft layers. Notch4 is therefore a plausible candidate gene for AA. We have examined two polymorphisms in the coding sequence of the Notch4 gene at positions +1297 and +3063 in a case-control study of 116 AA patients and 142 ethnically matched, healthy control subjects. The initial analysis showed a significant association of AA in the overall data set with the Notch4(T+1297C) polymorphism (P<0.001) but not with Notch4(A+3063G). To confirm this association, we genotyped an additional 62 patients and found that the risk for disease was higher in Notch4(+1297C) homozygotes [odds ratio (OR) 3.43 (1.63, 7.19)] than in heterozygotes [OR 2.58 (1.57, 4.24)]. On classifying the patients by severity of disease, the association appeared to be confined to the severest form (alopecia universalis) [OR 4.02 (1.64, 9.88), P=0.0014]. These results support previous findings showing that different HLA susceptibility alleles are associated with mild and severe AA.[1]


  1. Notch4, a non-HLA gene in the MHC is strongly associated with the most severe form of alopecia areata. Tazi-Ahnini, R., Cork, M.J., Wengraf, D., Wilson, A.G., Gawkrodger, D.J., Birch, M.P., Messenger, A.G., McDonagh, A.J. Hum. Genet. (2003) [Pubmed]
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