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Arthritis Rheum. 2004 Aug;50(8):2598-603.

Genetic association of cutaneous neonatal lupus with HLA class II and tumor necrosis factor alpha: implications for pathogenesis.

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Department of Rheumatology, Hospital for Joint Diseases, New York University School of Medicine, New York, New York 10003, USA.



Cutaneous neonatal lupus resembles subacute cutaneous lupus erythematosus (SCLE), and photosensitivity is a common symptom. Tumor necrosis factor alpha (TNFalpha) release by ultraviolet light-exposed keratinocytes may be exaggerated in SCLE patients who have the haplotype TNFalpha -308A;DRB1*03. Accordingly, this study was undertaken to seek genetic and histologic evidence for a role of TNFalpha in the pathogenesis of cutaneous neonatal lupus.


DNA was isolated from 83 children (22 with rash, 35 with congenital heart block [CHB], 26 unaffected siblings) and 58 mothers from the Research Registry for Neonatal Lupus.


The -308A allele (associated with higher TNFalpha production), HLA-DRQB1*02, and HLA-DRB1*03 were each present in the majority of children with rash (64%, 68%, and 64%, respectively). The frequency of all 3 6p alleles occurring together in 1 individual was greater in children with rash than in children who had either CHB or no manifestation of neonatal lupus (59% versus 30%; P = 0.02). This association with neonatal lupus rash was equivalent to published findings in a cohort of patients with SCLE, but significantly greater than the association in patients with discoid lupus erythematosus. Prominent TNFalpha staining in the epidermis was observed in lesional skin from 3 children with rash, but not in skin from a healthy neonate.


Taken together, the finding of a genetic predisposition to generate increased levels of TNFalpha following tissue injury and the histologic demonstration of TNFalpha in the target organ support the notion that this inflammatory cytokine plays a role in the pathogenesis of cutaneous neonatal lupus. Furthermore, the results of these studies provide evidence of a biologic link between neonatal lupus and the rash of SCLE.

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