Antibodies which bind to poly(ADP-ribose) have been described in Systemic Lupus Erythematosus (SLE) and a variety of infectious diseases. Two IgM kappa human monoclonal antibodies (MAbs), TH3 and PR4, produced from the fusion of peripheral blood lymphocytes of leprosy patients with the GM4672 lymphoblastoid cell line, were found to bind to poly(ADP-ribose) in direct binding and inhibition ELISAs. Significant inhibition of binding of these MAbs to poly(ADP-ribose) occurred with phenolic glycolipid-1, the M. leprae specific glycolipid, ssDNA, dsDNA, poly(dT), as well as poly(ADP-ribose) itself. Up to 80% of binding of TH3, and 90% of binding of PR4, to poly(ADP-ribose) was inhibited by 10 mcg of ssDNA suggesting that there may be sharing of some conformational determinants. Although the serological binding profiles of TH3 and PR4 are similar, only PR4 was found to bind to basal keratinocytes of normal human interfollicular epidermis and astrocyte cytoplasm in normal brain tissue. These results support the concept that an antibody binding site may accommodate more than one epitope. Furthermore, small differences in antigen binding potential may distinguish relatively innocuous antibodies from those which may be more pathogenic.