Clinical difficulties in predicting systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) renal flares are still encountered. Biological markers such as autoantibodies (aAbs) may be of major interest for clinicians in the follow-up of SLE patients. The aim of our study was to investigate the clinical utility of one of these biological markers, anti-C1q aAbs, in predicting renal flares of SLE nephritis in comparison with the 'gold standard' anti-double stranded DNA (anti-dsDNA) aAbs. Anti-C1q aAbs and anti-dsDNA aAbs were analysed through a longitudinal retrospective study of 23 SLE patients presenting with one or more renal flares. Anti-C1q and/or anti-dsDNA aAbs were found in 20 (87%) of 23 patients, of whom 16 (69%) displayed both. Thirty-three renal flares occurred during the course of the study, and anti-C1q aAbs and anti-dsDNA aAbs were positive in 25 (76%) and 24 (73%) of these flares respectively. The sensitivity of anti-C1q and/or anti-dsDNA aAbs in predicting renal flares reached 85%. The specificity of anti-C1q aAbs was 84%, of anti-dsDNA aAbs 77% and of both aAbs 97%. Positive and negative predictive values were as follows: 56% and 70% for anti-C1q aAbs, 53% and 72% for anti-dsDNA aAbs. The combination of both aAbs had the highest positive predictive value (69%), whereas absence of both aAbs was associated with the highest negative predictive value (74%). In conclusion, our results confirm that anti-C1q aAbs are present in a significant percentage of SLE patients with active renal involvement, suggesting that these aAbs could be a useful additional marker. The presence of anti-C1q and anti-dsDNA aAbs was associated with a high risk of renal flare, whereas the absence of both aAbs excluded such an event. These data confirm that systematic detection of anti-C1q and anti-dsDNA aAbs is of interest for the follow-up in SLE patients with renal involvement.