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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. Feb 1990; 87(3): 1233–1237.

Heritable major histocompatibility complex class II-associated differences in production of tumor necrosis factor alpha: relevance to genetic predisposition to systemic lupus erythematosus.


We report on the production of tumor necrosis factor (TNF)-alpha and TNF-beta by mitogen-activated peripheral blood lymphocytes or enriched monocyte subpopulations from human leukocyte antigen (HLA)-typed healthy subjects. The results indicate that HLA-DR2- and DQw1-positive donors frequently exhibit low production of TNF-alpha, whereas DR3- and DR4-positive subjects show high levels of TNF-alpha production. No correlation between TNF-alpha levels and HLA-A, -B, and -C genotype was found. The relevance of this quantitative polymorphism to the genetic predisposition to lupus nephritis in systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) patients was investigated. DR2, DQw1-positive SLE patients show low levels of TNF-alpha inducibility; this genotype is also associated with an increased incidence of lupus nephritis. DR3-positive SLE patients, on the other hand, are not predisposed to nephritis, and these patients have high TNF-alpha production. DR4 haplotype is associated with high TNF-alpha inducibility and is negatively correlated with lupus nephritis. These data may help explain the strong association between HLA-DR2, DQw1 in SLE patients and their susceptibility to nephritis.

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