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J Invest Dermatol. 1994 Jun;102(6):963-6.

Autoantibodies of neonatal lupus erythematosus.

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Department of Dermatology, University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center, Oklahoma.


The most common manifestations of neonatal lupus erythematosus (NLE) are cutaneous lupus and congenital heart block. Autoantibodies to Ro/SSA occur in almost all cases of NLE. The autoantibody response to Ro/SSA is complex, and antibodies may be detected to 60-kD Ro/SSA, 52-kD Ro/SSA, La/SSB, and U1 ribonuclear protein in anti-Ro/SSA-positive sera. Which of these anti-Ro/SSA-related autoantibody specificities are important in the clinical expression of NLE is not conclusively established. We examined the autoantibody specificities in 20 maternal NLE sera to determine whether autoantibody specificities correlate with the clinical findings and to evaluate the relative importance of autoantibodies to the different Ro/SSA-associated proteins. Autoantibodies were examined using immunodiffusion, immunoblotting, and enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay. Eleven babies had NLE skin disease, 11 had heart block, and two had both skin disease and heart block. All 20 maternal sera had antibodies to 60-kD Ro/SSA. Eighteen of the 20 had antibodies to 52-kD Ro/SSA, nine had antibodies to La/SSB, and one had antibodies to U1 ribonuclear protein. The prevalence of anti-La/SSB was the same in the skin-disease and heart-block subsets of NLE. Titers of anti-60-kD Ro/SSA were significantly (p < 0.02) lower in NLE skin disease maternal sera than in the NLE heart-block maternal sera. These results point out the importance of 60-kD Ro/SSA as a potential target in NLE. We speculate that the lower titers of anti-60-kD Ro/SSA in the sera from mothers of babies with skin disease may be due to substantial deposition of antibodies in the mothers' and babies' skin, leading to lower circulating titers, or may reflect a lower threshold for development of skin disease than for heart block.

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