Antibodies against a cell-surface protein, cross-reactive with double-stranded DNA, were detected in the serum of 25 patients with active human systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE), defined on the basis of the revised American Rheumatism Association classification. Among these sera, two did not display anti-DNA antibodies, as shown by Farr assay, solid-phase radioimmunoassay, and Crithidia luciliae test. Five other SLE patients were consecutively studied in active and remission states. Antibodies against the protein were detected in the serum of the 5 SLE patients when they were in active phase but not in the serum of the same patients in inactive phase of the disease. The anti-protein antibodies were not found in the serum of 10 inactive SLE patients or in the sera of 10 normal human controls, 10 patients with rheumatoid arthritis, 5 patients with scleroderma, and 4 patients with primary sicca syndrome. Taken together, these results strongly suggest that antibodies against this cell-surface protein could provide a better diagnosis marker and activity index than anti-DNA antibodies in SLE.