The pattern of inheritance of autoantibodies in eight families chosen from a pool of 110 families of patients with systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) is described. In all the eight families at least two members were already affected by SLE. In total, 19 patients and 43 first degree relatives were examined. The inheritance of a large set of antinuclear antibodies (for example, DNA, Sm, RNP, Ro, La, histones) and 16/6 idiotype seemed to be related to some unknown genetic factors but not related to HLA. The presence of numerous antinuclear autoantibodies in the serum of a subject was not necessarily associated with overt disease. The incidence of the 16/6 idiotype among patients and their relatives was low. It is not yet clear whether the 'autoantibody burden' is greater in families with multiple cases of SLE than in families with single cases.
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