Antibodies against dsDNA of the IgM class were measured in sera of 352 patients with systemic lupus erythematosus, 81 blood donors and 189 patients with rheumatoid arthritis using a new ELISA based on human recombinant dsDNA as antigen. IgM anti-dsDNA antibodies were found in 52.3% of the sera from patients with systemic lupus erythematosus, but in none of the sera from 81 normal controls and 189 patients with rheumatoid arthritis. The association of these autoantibodies with 31 clinical and 37 laboratory parameters was calculated. There was a highly significant negative correlation between IgM anti-dsDNA antibodies and nephritis as well as all the laboratory parameters indicating renal disease (elevated serum creatinine concentration, proteinuria, erythrocyte casts in the urine). IgM anti-dsDNA antibodies indicate protection of lupus patients against the development of lupus nephritis. Further experiments will show whether application of IgM anti-dsDNA antibodies is effective in treating lupus nephritis.