Family studies of first-degree relatives and analysis of twins indicate that as much as 75% of the differences in quantitative IL-10 production in man derive from heritable genetic factors. Studies of single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNP) in the proximal 1.0 kb of the IL-10 promoter have yielded inconsistent association with IL-10 production and variable results in promoter-reporter studies. However, in normal donors, an association of quantitative production with certain alleles of the IL-10.R short tandem repeat polymorphism at -4.0 kb suggested that SNPs in the more distal promoter might be informative. We have identified seven novel SNP sites in the genomic sequence of the first 4 kb of the IL-10 promoter region 5' to the ATG start site from Caucasian individuals with either a high or a low IL-10 production phenotype. We have also identified eight SNP haplotypes in the distal promoter that segregate with significant differences in quantitative IL-10 production in normal donors. These SNPs are significantly associated with systemic lupus erythematosus in African-Americans and may define one component of the genetic susceptibility to systemic lupus erythematosus in this group.