How the HLA-DQ7 Gene Might Relate to Celiac Disease

The gene HLA-DQ7 is not considered one of the main genes that can predispose you to celiac disease. But there is some evidence that it might play a role in the condition, and possibly in non-celiac gluten sensitivity.

Celiac disease is a genetically-based condition, which means you need to have the "right" genes to develop it. Researchers have found that your HLA-DQ genes seem to play a primary role in villous atrophy—the characteristic intestinal damage found in celiac disease.

strands of dna
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HLA-DQ Genes and Celiac Disease

Everyone inherits two HLA-DQ genes from their parents (one from their mother, one from their father).

There are many different forms of HLA-DQ genes, including HLA-DQ7, HLA-DQ2, HLA-DQ8, HLA-DQ9, and HLA-DQ1. Out of all those different forms of HLA-DQ genes, there are two that are so-called "celiac disease genes:" DQ2 and DQ8.

Ninety percent of people who develop celiac disease have DQ2, while a much smaller percentage have DQ8. Even fewer have the higher risk combination of both (DQ2/DQ8), or two of the same gene (DQ2/DQ2). Together, those individual genes and gene combinations seem to be involved in 96% of all diagnosed celiac disease cases.

A 2013 study in the Journal of Clinical Immunology reported that 50% of people with celiac disease who carried the HLA-DQ2 and/or HLA-DQ8 gene had other autoimmune diseases as well.

In addition to celiac disease, people with the HLA-DQ2 or HLA-DQ8 gene are at increased risk of rheumatoid arthritis, inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), psoriasis, lupus, and other autoimmune disorders.

How HLA-DQ7 Fits In

There are some people who don't carry HLA-DQ2 or HLA-DQ8 and who still develop celiac disease.

At least one study has found that about half of these people (in other words, about 2% of all people with celiac disease) actually carry HLA-DQ7. This shows that HLA-DQ7 may be a gene that can predispose some people to the condition.

However, this view hasn't been backed up in other studies, and more research is needed to determine if HLA-DQ7—which is very similar to HLA-DQ8—is a main "celiac disease gene." At this time, scientists aren't entirely sure what role HLA-DQ7 plays in celiac disease.

It's possible that HLA-DQ7 plays some role in non-celiac gluten sensitivity, a condition considered to be distinct from celiac disease (even though gluten sensitivity symptoms are almost identical to celiac disease symptoms).

A Word From Verywell

It's all but certain that there are many more genes involved in the development of celiac disease, but researchers have yet to identify them all. Research into gluten sensitivity is just beginning, and scientists haven't determined whether it's a condition that's strongly genetically based.

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