We investigated the possibility that autoantibodies are locally synthesized and secreted within salivary glands of patients with Sjögren's syndrome by measuring specific autoantibody as a proportion of the total immunoglobulin present both in serum and saliva. Of 25 patients studied, 21 showed salivary enrichment of IgA anti-La, in three cases IgA anti-La being detected in saliva when IgG anti-La was negative (by ELISA) in serum. Twenty-four showed enrichment of salivary rheumatoid factors and IgA and/or IgM carrying the 17-109 idiotype, a marker of kappa IIIb light chains. These data suggest that autoantibodies, especially of the IgA class, are synthesized primarily in salivary gland and that they can be detected in saliva before they become apparent in the peripheral circulation. The subsequent deposition of these antibodies within salivary glands may be a contributory factor to the pathogenesis of Sjögren's syndrome.