The 4.7Mbp HLA region contains numerous immune-system genes, notably those involved in detecting the presence of infection, malignancy and transplanted tissue and providing ligands that interact with lymphocyte receptors to trigger human innate and adaptive immune responses. Some of these genes are extraordinarily polymorphic, subject to balancing selection and associated with resistance/susceptibility to a wide range of infectious, autoimmune and allergic diseases, as well as being major arbiters of transplant rejection, graft-versus- disease following hematopoietic stem cell transplantation, and pregnancy syndromes. Despite the wide-ranging importance of the HLA region, and its dominance in the genetic associations with many human diseases, no concerted effort to systematically study the variation in HLA haplotype sequences has been undertaken. We propose to do this by developing a method that will allow characterization of hundreds of haplotypes in an accurate and cost-effective manner. Recent advances in immunology, have shown that killer-cell immunoglobulin-like receptors, which are primate-specific and reach their utmost complexity in the human species, are natural killer (NK) cell receptors for HLA class I, interactions that are formative in human innate immune defense and reproduction. That both HLA class I and KIR are highly polymorphic, but segregate on different chromosomes, is an extraordinary situation, because almost all individuals express receptors for ligands that they lack and vice versa. KIR polymorphism is increasingly being associated with disease, and in combination with HLA class I can yield stronger associations than either ligand or receptor alone. Because of these functional and genetic interactions, we will also sequence KIR haplotypes (130-250Kbp) from the same individuals whose HLA haplotypes are sequenced. The proposed research will cover the ethnic diversity of the human population, and will examine two types of disease that are associated with HLA/KIR factors. Central to this project is development of new methods that will advance biological understanding of HLA and KIR diversity to much higher level, and will also be applicable to clinical HLA and KIR typing as diagnostics for disease and improving the choice of donors for therapeutic transplantation.

Public Health Relevance

The human leukocyte antigen (HLA) complex and the killer cell immunoglobulin-like receptor (KIR) gene family are functionally interacting genomic regions associated with a wide range of human infectious and autoimmune diseases, as well as reproductive success and the outcome of therapeutic transplantation. In this project we will precisely define HLA and KIR genetic variation within the human population. This information will enable the identification of disease-causing genes and their mechanism of action.

National Institute of Health (NIH)
Research Project--Cooperative Agreements (U01)
Project #
Application #
Study Section
Special Emphasis Panel (ZAI1)
Program Officer
Rice, Jeffrey S
Project Start
Project End
Budget Start
Budget End
Support Year
Fiscal Year
Total Cost
Indirect Cost
Stanford University
Schools of Medicine
United States
Zip Code