Systemic sclerosis (SSc) is a clinically heterogeneous autoimmune disease characterized by mutually exclusive autoantibodies directed against distinct nuclear antigens. We examined HLA associations in SSc and its autoantibody subsets in a large, newly recruited African American (AA) cohort and among European Americans (EA). In the AA population, the African ancestry-predominant HLA-DRB1*08:04 and HLA-DRB1*11:02 alleles were associated with overall SSc risk, and the HLA-DRB1*08:04 allele was strongly associated with the severe antifibrillarin (AFA) antibody subset of SSc (odds ratio = 7.4). These African ancestry-predominant alleles may help explain the increased frequency and severity of SSc among the AA population. In the EA population, the HLA-DPB1*13:01 and HLA-DRB1*07:01 alleles were more strongly associated with antitopoisomerase (ATA) and anticentromere antibody-positive subsets of SSc, respectively, than with overall SSc risk, emphasizing the importance of HLA in defining autoantibody subtypes. The association of the HLA-DPB1*13:01 allele with the ATA+ subset of SSc in both AA and EA patients demonstrated a transancestry effect. A direct correlation between SSc prevalence and HLA-DPB1*13:01 allele frequency in multiple populations was observed (r = 0.98, P = 3 × 10-6). Conditional analysis in the autoantibody subsets of SSc revealed several associated amino acid residues, mostly in the peptide-binding groove of the class II HLA molecules. Using HLA α/β allelic heterodimers, we bioinformatically predicted immunodominant peptides of topoisomerase 1, fibrillarin, and centromere protein A and discovered that they are homologous to viral protein sequences from the Mimiviridae and Phycodnaviridae families. Taken together, these data suggest a possible link between HLA alleles, autoantibodies, and environmental triggers in the pathogenesis of SSc.