Both the infection of human cytomegalovirus (HCMV) and the immunization of its recombinant glycoprotein (gB) in mice have been known to induce autoimmunity, resulting in symptoms similar to those of human systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE). Research has also found that the murine cytomegalovirus (MCMV)-specific monoclonal antibody (mAb) is able to react with a human U1-70K-like autoantigen. To investigate HCMV involvement in autoimmunity, we analysed the humoral responses to HCMV by autoimmune patients and normal adults. Our studies show unambiguously that sera from SLE patients exhibited an elevated IgG titre to HCMV when compared with those observed in controls and other connective tissue disease (CTD) patients (P < 0.001). The IgM titres to HCMV and IgG to HBV were evaluated, and no significant differences were noted among all testing groups. In addition to initiating T cell activity, as reported by many investigators, we found that the HCMV pp65 antigen (also known as lower matrix protein) was able to induce humoral responses in SLE patients. Immunoblot assays showed that 82.56% of sera from SLE patients reacted with the HCMV pp65 antigen, but only 11.11%, 23.53% and 31.17% of patients from normal control, rheumatoid arthritis (RA) and CTD patients, respectively, reacted to it. Unlike HCMV pp65, HCMV pp150 induced B cell activity in most collected sera (92.22%-98.04%). Finally, female NZB/W F1 mice immunized with plasmids encoding HCMV pp65 open reading frame (pcDNApp65) developed an early onset of autoantibody activity and more severe glomerulonephritis. Thus, we conclude that the HCMV pp65 antigen triggers humoral immunity in SLE patients and autoimmune-prone mice and that it could very well exacerbate the autoimmune responses in susceptible animals.