This article reviews and updates current information on the possible genetic basis for cutaneous lupus erythematosus. The aetiology of this condition remains unknown and is believed to be multifactorial, involving genetic, environmental and retroviral factors. A genetic predisposition is probably the greatest risk factor for this condition. Individual susceptibility to lupus erythematosus may be determined by a combination of specific polymorphisms of genes encoding multiple cytokines, adhesion molecules, and cellular proteins. This condition may lead to an abnormal expression of immunoregulatory molecules and finally results in the development or exacerbation of the disease. Recently also the role of endogenous retroviral sequences in the pathogenesis of autoimmunity has been discussed.