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The association between carriage of the human leucocyte antigen (HLA)-B*51 allele and development of Behçet's disease (BD) has been known since the early 1970s, but the exact mechanisms responsible for its role in pathogenesis remain much-debated. In an effort to explain the disease process, it has been suggested that BD constitutes one of a newly termed group of diseases, the 'MHC-I-opathies'. Other MHC-I-opathies include ankylosing spondylitis and HLA-B*27-associated spondyloarthropathies and HLA-C*0602-associated skin psoriasis. Recent work analysing the peptidome of HLA-B*51 suggests that altered peptide presentation by HLA-B*51 is vital to the disease process. In this review, we argue that immune receptor interactions with HLA-B*51 or the HLA-B*51-peptide complex could lead to development of inflammation in BD. The evidence for CD8+ T cell involvement is weak, and based on emerging studies it seems more likely that natural killer (NK) or other cell interactions, perhaps mediated by leucocyte immunoglobulin-like receptor (LILR) or killer immunoglobulin-like receptor (KIR) receptors, are culpable in pathogenesis. HLA misfolding leading directly to inflammation is another hypothesis for BD pathogenesis that deserves greater investigation. Ultimately, greater understanding of HLA-B*51's unique role in BD will probably lead to improved development of therapeutic strategies.

Original publication




Journal article


Clin Exp Immunol

Publication Date





11 - 18


antigen presentation/processing, autoimmunity, autoinflammatory disease, Alleles, Antigen Presentation, Autoimmunity, Behcet Syndrome, Cytokines, Disease Susceptibility, Epitopes, Genetic Predisposition to Disease, HLA-B51 Antigen, Humans, Killer Cells, Natural, Microbiota, Peptides, Protein Folding, T-Lymphocyte Subsets, Th17 Cells