The objective was to study the association of antibodies against cyclic citrullinated peptides (anti-CCP) in patients with lupus articular damage. We studied 34 systemic lupus erythematosus patients (30 women) with (n = 14) or without (n = 20) deforming arthropathy. Anti-DNA and arthritis were mandatory inclusion criteria for both groups. As controls, 34 patients with rheumatoid arthritis and nine patients with rheumatoid arthritis and systemic lupus erythematosus (rhupus) were included. Anti-CCP and rheumatoid factor were determined by ELISA and nephelometry respectively. All patients had recent x-ray films of the hands that were evaluated according to Sharp's method. Systemic lupus erythematosus patients had a mean 6.50 +/- 0.86 (SD, range 5-8) American College of Rheumatology (ACR) criteria, rheumatoid arthritis patients met 5.38 +/- 0.60 (range 4-6) ACR criteria for rheumatoid arthritis and rhupus patients had 5.78 +/- 0.44 (range 5-6) criteria for rheumatoid arthritis and 5.11 +/- 0.78 (range 4-6) for systemic lupus erythematosus. Systemic lupus erythematosus patients, with or without deforming arthropathy, had normal serum anti-CCP concentrations. In contrast, rheumatoid arthritis and rhupus patients had 30- and 23-fold higher than normal amounts of anti-CCP (p < 0.001, both comparisons). Rheumatoid arthritis (97%) and rhupus (100%) patients were more frequently positive for anti-CCP than SLE patients with (7%) or without (5%) deforming arthropathy (p < 0.001, both comparisons). Patients with lupus deforming arthropathy were more frequently positive for rheumatoid factor (65%) than patients with non-deforming arthritis (15%) (p = 0.005). Patients with lupus deforming arthropathy had similar frequency of erosions and mean Sharp's score than rhupus patients. Anti-CCP antibodies do not associate with lupus arthropathy, whether deforming, non-deforming or erosive.