Primary biliary cirrhosis is characterized by the presence of antimitochondrial antibodies. Recently, six of the autoantigens have been identified as components of the 2-oxo acid dehydrogenase multienzyme complexes located within mammalian mitochondria. Immunoblotting studies have shown that two of these components, namely E2 and protein X of pyruvate dehydrogenase complex, are the major antigenic polypeptides recognized by autoantibodies. This study shows the development of an enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay to detect and quantitate antibodies to these two purified antigens. Coded serum samples from 166 patients with primary biliary cirrhosis, 140 patients with other liver and/or autoimmune disease, and 52 normal women were analyzed for reactivity using this immunoassay. These results indicate that this rapid, simple method has a 93% sensitivity and 96% specificity in the diagnosis of primary biliary cirrhosis. The titer of immunoglobulin G autoantibodies correlated not only with antimitochondrial antibody titer measured by indirect immunofluorescence (P less than 0.0001) but also with histological stage of disease (P less than 0.04) and prognostic biochemical variables such as higher serum bilirubin and lower serum albumin levels (P = 0.038 and 0.028, respectively). There was no significant correlation between titer of autoantibodies and serum globulin or immunoglobulin G levels, indicating that the positive correlation with disease progression was not secondary to hypergammaglobulinemia.