Narcolepsy is a sleep disorder associated with HLA DR15 (DR2) and DQB1*0602. We HLA typed 509 patients enrolled in a clinical trial for the drug modafinil and analyzed the results in relation to cataplexy, a symptom of narcolepsy characterized by muscle weakness triggered by emotions. The patients were either subjects with cataplexy who had a mean sleep latency (SL) of less than 8 minutes and two or more sleep onset rapid eye movement (REM) periods (SOREMPs) during a multiple sleep latency test, or narcoleptic patients without cataplexy but with a mean SL shorter than 5 minutes and two or more SOREMPs. The respective values of DRB1*15 (DR2) and DQB1*0602 as markers for narcolepsy were first compared in different ethnic groups and in patients with and without cataplexy. DQB1*0602 was found to be a more sensitive marker for narcolepsy than DRB1*15 across all ethnic groups. DQB1*0602 frequency was strikingly higher in patients with cataplexy versus patients without cataplexy (76.1% in 421 patients versus 40.9% in 88 patients). Positivity was highest in patients with severe cataplexy (94.8%) and progressively decreased to 54.2% in patients with the mildest cataplexy. A voluntary 50-item questionnaire focusing on cataplexy was also analyzed in 212 of the 509 HLA-typed patients. Subjects with definite cataplexy as observed by an experienced clinician were more frequently HLA DQB1*0602-positive than those with doubtful cataplexy, and the manifestations of cataplexy were clinically more typical in DQB1*0602-positive patients. These results show that the HLA association is as tight as previously reported (85-95%) when cataplexy is clinically typical or severe. We also found that patients with mild, atypical, or no cataplexy have a significantly increased DQB1*0602 frequency (40-60%) in comparison with ethnically matched controls (24%). These results could be explained by increased disease heterogeneity in the noncataplexy group or by a direct effect of the HLA DQB1*0602 genotype on the clinical expression of narcolepsy.
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View details for PubMedID 9456467