Anti-M9 antibodies in sera from patients with primary biliary cirrhosis (PBC) were previously found to recognize two antigenic determinants at 98 and 59 kD, using a purified antigen fraction derived from rat liver mitochondria in the Western blot. Here we show that these antibodies are directed against an epitope of the enzyme glycogen phosphorylase. By Western blotting, a determinant at 98 kD was obtained testing anti-M9 positive sera against phosphorylase from skeletal muscle, and after plasmin treatment a degradation product appeared at 59 kD. Both determinants were identical to the M9-specific determinants 98 and 59 kD as shown by absorption studies. When these antibodies were eluted from the 98 and 59 kD determinants of the M9 antigen after immunoblotting, they again recognized the same epitopes on plasmin-treated phosphorylase. Furthermore, phosphorylase enzyme activity could be also demonstrated in the purified M9 fraction, and anti-M9-positive/anti-M2-negative but not anti-M9-negative/anti-M2-positive sera could be shown to stimulate phosphorylase activity. Testing sera from 1189 patients with different hepatic and non-hepatic disorders against M9 and phosphorylase from skeletal muscle by ELISA, 20% were positive with phosphorylase and only 2% with the M9 fraction. These data indicate that the commercially available phosphorylase from skeletal muscle cannot be recommended as M9 source. It may still contain non-PBC-specific epitopes which are probably recognized by naturally occurring antibodies directed against this highly conserved protein.