HLA. 2023 Oct 18. doi: 10.1111/tan.15251. Online ahead of print.
Extreme polymorphism of HLA and killer-cell immunoglobulin-like receptors (KIR) differentiates immune responses across individuals. Additional to T cell receptor interactions, subsets of HLA class I act as ligands for inhibitory and activating KIR, allowing natural killer (NK) cells to detect and kill infected cells. We investigated the impact of HLA and KIR polymorphism on the severity of COVID-19. High resolution HLA class I and II and KIR genotypes were determined from 403 non-hospitalized and 1575 hospitalized SARS-CoV-2 infected patients from Italy collected in 2020. We observed that possession of the activating KIR2DS4*001 allotype is associated with severe disease, requiring hospitalization (OR = 1.48, 95% CI 1.20-1.85, pc = 0.017), and this effect is greater in individuals homozygous for KIR2DS4*001 (OR = 3.74, 95% CI 1.75-9.29, pc = 0.003). We also observed the HLA class II allotype, HLA-DPB1*13:01 protects SARS-CoV-2 infected patients from severe disease (OR = 0.49, 95% CI 0.33-0.74, pc = 0.019). These association analyses were replicated using logistic regression with sex and age as covariates. Autoantibodies against IFN-α associated with COVID-19 severity were detected in 26% of 156 hospitalized patients tested. HLA-C*08:02 was more frequent in patients with IFN-α autoantibodies than those without, and KIR3DL1*01502 was only present in patients lacking IFN-α antibodies. These findings suggest that KIR and HLA polymorphism is integral in determining the clinical outcome following SARS-CoV-2 infection, by influencing the course both of innate and adaptive immunity.