In a study of connective tissue and infectious disease sera, we have demonstrated IgM and IgG anti-cardiolipin activity, in a solid phase radioimmunoassay, in systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE), rheumatoid arthritis, syphilis and in acute malaria caused by four different species of Plasmodium. The highest values were noted in SLE (IgM anti-cardiolipin P less than 0.005, IgG anti-cardiolipin P less than 0.01), but there was no correlation with anti-dsDNA, rheumatoid factor or VDRL titres in any disease group. Anti-cardiolipin binding was significantly associated with the lupus anticoagulant, thrombocytopenia, spontaneous abortions and thromboses in the SLE patients. Ten SLE sera from this thrombotic subset and 10 syphilitic sera with similar anti-cardiolipin activity, were tested against four phospholipid antigens and showed significantly different anti-phosphatidyl ethanolamine/anti-phosphatidyl serine binding ratios (P less than 0.001). These differences in phospholipid epitope specificity could explain the specificity of the VDRL antigen in syphilis serology, and we discuss a putative role for anti-phosphatidyl serine in the thrombotic diathesis of SLE.