Myositis-specific autoantibodies or myositis-associated autoantibodies can often be found in serum of patients with polymyositis and dermatomyositis. The presence of these autoantibodies can be significant in patient diagnosis and classification. Recent studies have provided new information about many of these specific autoantibodies. Among the more important developments were identification of a new antisynthetase, reacting with asparaginyl-tRNA synthetase; the detection of antibodies to the tRNA(his) in a over a third of anti-Jo-1 sera; and the description of distinctive features of the histopathology of patients with anti-Jo-1. New information about the cellular role of the antigens was discovered, including a role for Mi-2 antigen in chromosomally-mediated regulation of transcription as part of a nucleosome remodeling complex, and a potential role for PM-Scl antigen in ribosomal RNA processing as part of an exosome. The reason for the production of the autoantibodies, and the reason particular antigens are targeted, are key questions. Recent studies have suggested that antigen cleavage during apoptosis, particularly by granzyme B, may be an important factor. Whether the antibodies play a role in tissue injury remains unknown.