Many studies have suggested a relationship between certain alleles of the human leukocyte antigen (HLA) and the prevalence of some diseases or the immunological responsiveness to certain antigens. Furthermore, our studies in the past have demonstrated decreased immune function among atomic-bomb survivors who were exposed to high doses of radiation. However, no studies have addressed the possibility of various degrees of radiation-induced immune suppression being dependent on HLA type. To investigate the possibility of differing frequency distributions of HLA type in the Hiroshima atomic bomb survivors, HLA-DQAl alleles and HLA-DR antigens were typed for 291 survivors in a high-dose group (> 1.5 Gy), 339 survivors in an intermediate-dose group (0.005-1.5 Gy), and 388 in a distally exposed control group (<0.005 Gy). These doses are whole-body exposures, mainly from gamma-rays but with a small neutron component. When examinees were grouped by distinct pairs of HLA-DQAl allele or HLA-DR antigen, no sex- or dose-related differences were found. However, when subjects were grouped by the presence of a specific allele or antigen, males carrying DQAl*0103 in at least one of their two HLA-DQAl loci exhibited frequency distributions that decreased as radiation dose increased. These results suggest, although weakly, a possible population bias among male survivors with respect to HLA polymorphism. However, this bias is unlikely to be great enough to have a substantial effect on the cancer risk estimates.
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