Hybridoma producing monoclonal antibody to proliferating cell nuclear antigen (PCNA/cyclin) (TOB7, IgG1 kappa) was newly established. Using TOB7, PCNA was detected in the peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMC) in patients with systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE). Forty-four of 58 patients with SLE had PBMC expressing PCNA. The percentage of PCNA-positive PBMC in patients with SLE was 0-20% (mean: 2.63%) which was significantly higher (P less than 0.01) compared with normal controls (mean: 0.18%), patients with rheumatoid arthritis (mean: 0.83%), and patients with mixed connective tissue disease (mean: 0.38%). Patients with high numbers of PCNA positive PBMC tended to complicate pulmonary disorders (P less than 0.005), especially pulmonary fibrosis (P less than 0.005). In addition, the percentage of PCNA-positive cells in SLE patients correlated with the disease activity (r = 0.45, P less than 0.01). The lymphocyte subsets of PCNA-positive PBMC were examined, and most of those cells belonged to CD4- or CD8-positive T-cell populations in three lupus patients. Our findings indicate that PCNA-positive activated PBMC are present in SLE patients and the percentage of PCNA-positive PBMC may be used as an indicator of disease activity.