The serum and cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) of 8 women with ataxia, 6 of whom also had eye movement abnormalities believed to be opsoclonus, were found to contain a highly specific antineuronal antibody we call anti-Ri. Seven of the 8 women also had or developed cancer: carcinoma of the breast in 5, adenocarcinoma in an axillary lymph node in 1, and carcinoma of the fallopian tube in 1. Four patients presented with the neurological disorder; the cancer was diagnosed first in the other 4. Immunohistochemical studies using serum or CSF from all 8 patients revealed a highly specific antibody interaction with central nervous system neuronal nuclei but not with glial or other cells; the titer ranged from 1:5,000 to 1:320,000 in serum and from 1:2,000 to 1:16,000 in CSF. Biotinylated IgG from the patients' serum reacted with the tumors of 3 of 4 patients with anti-Ri antibody but not with breast cancers from patients without anti-Ri antibody. Immunoblots against cerebral cortex neuronal extracts identified protein antigens of 55-kd and 80-kd relative molecular mass. Serum titers by immunoblot ranged from 1:500 to more than 1:40,000 and CSF titers, from 1:10 to 1:2,000. The relative amount of anti-Ri was always higher in CSF than in serum. The antibody was not present in sera from normal individuals; patients with breast cancer without opsoclonus; other patients with opsoclonus; or patients with other paraneoplastic syndromes related to breast, ovarian, or small-cell lung cancer. We conclude that the presence of anti-Ri antibody identifies a subset of patients with paraneoplastic ataxia and eye movement disorders (opsoclonus) who usually suffer from breast or other gynecological cancer; the antibody when present is a useful marker for an underlying malignancy.