Objective: To determine any clinical or genetic markers of differentiation and outcome in a previously described cohort of 46 patients with mixed connective tissue disease (MCTD).
Methods: Patients were clinically evaluated, chart notes reviewed, and HLA subtyping and immunology profiles performed where possible. Eleven had died and 7 were lost to followup.
Results: MCTD had differentiated into systemic lupus erythematosus in 12 patients and into systemic sclerosis in 13. The latter was associated with HLA-DR5 (P = 0.038), and nondifferentiation was associated with HLA-DR2 or DR4 (P = 0.007). Three HLA-DR4 positive patients had MCTD that evolved into rheumatoid arthritis. Erosive and/or deforming arthritis was associated with HLA-DR1 or DR4 (P = 0.015). HLA-DR3 was associated with interstitial lung fibrosis (P = 0.044) and keratoconjunctivitis sicca (0.001 < P < 0.01). Severe Raynaud's phenomenon predicted higher mortality (0.01 < P < 0.05).
Conclusion: We suggest that MCTD is, for most patients, an intermediate stage in a genetically determined progression to a recognized connective tissue disease. Those whose disease remains undifferentiated might be considered a distinct subset.