Cigarette smoking may be associated with an increased risk of systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE), but the underlying mechanism of this association remains unclear. N-acetyltransferase 2 (NAT2) is highly variable and detoxifies aromatic amines, an important class of carcinogens in tobacco smoke. Individuals who possess homozygous polymorphic alleles have a slower rate of metabolic detoxification of aromatic amines. We investigated the relationship of the NAT2 polymorphism to the risk of SLE with special reference to the interaction with cigarette smoking among 152 SLE cases and 427 controls in a female Japanese population. NAT2*4, NAT2*5B, NAT2*6A and NAT2*7B alleles were detected with polymerase chain reaction-restriction fragment length polymorphism. Individuals carrying the *4/*4 genotype are rapid acetylators, whereas those with homozygous non-*4 genotypes have a slow acetylator phenotype. Cigarette smoking was associated with an increased risk of SLE (odds ratio [OR] = 2.26; 95% confidence interval [CI] = 1.46-3.50). The slow acetylator genotype of NAT2 was significantly associated with an increased risk of SLE (OR = 2.34, 95% CI = 1.21-4.52) compared with the rapid acetylator genotype. A gene-environment interaction was suggested, with a combination of the NAT2 slow acetylator genotype and smoking conferring significantly higher risk (OR = 6.44, 95% CI = 3.07-13.52; attributable proportion due to interaction = 0.50, 95% CI = 0.12-0.88), compared with the NAT2 rapid acetylator genotype and no history of smoking. This study suggests that, in this Japanese population, the NAT2 slow acetylator status may be a determinant in susceptibility to SLE.
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