Thirty-eight cases of lupus nephritis, all satisfying the American Rheumatism Association criteria for diagnosis of systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE), with renal involvement and biopsy were immunohistochemically studied for the expression of HLA-DR (DAKO: HLA-DR/alpha, TAL.1B5), one of the three known families belonging to the class II major histocompatibility complex (MHC), using a standard streptavidin-biotin-peroxidase method. 20 nephrectomies performed for renal trauma and tumours constituted the normal controls. Of the lupus nephritis cases, 34 were females and 4 males. Ethnically, 20 were Chinese, 13 Malay, 4 Indian and 1 of indigenous origin. Their ages ranged from 16 to 59 years (mean of 31 years). Histologically, 23 expressed World Health Organisation (WHO) class IV (diffuse proliferative), 10 WHO class V (diffuse membranous), 4 WHO class II (pure mesangiopathy) and 1 WHO class III (segmental and focal proliferative) nephritis. Activity scores ranged between 5 to 19 (mean = 8.6) and chronicity scored between 2 to 7 (mean = 3.2) on a standard scoring system. Similar to other studies, HLA-DR was expressed in the glomerular capillaries and peritubular capillaries of all and mesangium, tubules (proximal, distal and collecting), veins and arterioles of some normal controls. Interestingly, HLA-DR expression was noted in the arteries of 25% of the normal controls, a finding hitherto not reported. The frequency of lupus nephritis cases expressing HLA-DR in the various anatomical components did not differ significantly from the normal controls except that HLA-DR expression in arteries and arterioles was seen at a significantly increased frequency (p < 0.01) in lupus nephritis. This increased expression did not correlate with the WHO class, activity or chronicity scores. It therefore appears that MHC class II shows increased expression in the arterial system of lupus nephritis kidneys. The significance of this is unclear but could be related to heightened (gamma-interferon activation which may be a de novo phenomenon or result of T cell proliferation and activation in SLE.