In several diseases, including systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) and autoimmune hemolytic anemias, the numbers of complement receptor type 1 (CR1) expressed on erythrocytes of patients are reduced. In patients with SLE, anticardiolipin antibodies (aCL) have been associated with positive results on direct antiglobulin tests. Because of these findings, we investigated whether the reduced expression of erythrocyte CR1 in 61 patients (53 with SLE and 8 with the antiphospholipid syndrome) might be associated with the presence of aCL. A negative correlation was observed between aCL levels and mean numbers of CR1 (rs = -0.43, P = 0.001), and a positive correlation was observed between aCL levels and the levels of erythrocyte C4d and C3d (rs = 0.33 and 0.41, P = 0.01 and 0.001, respectively), but no correlation of aCL levels with serum C4 levels was found. When the results were further analyzed according to the IgG or IgM class of aCL, levels of antibodies of both classes were negatively correlated with CR1 numbers, but only IgM aCL levels were correlated with erythrocyte C4d and C3d numbers. The levels of anti-double-stranded DNA antibodies showed no correlation with erythrocyte CR1, C4d, or C3d numbers but were negatively correlated with serum C4 levels (rs = -0.43, P = 0.002). These data suggest that aCL, or a closely related antibody specificity, may bind to erythrocytes and may be directly involved in the mechanism for reduction of erythrocyte CR1 expression in SLE patients.