Three groups of kidney specimens from patients with systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) were examined for histologic evidence of vascular lesions in small arteries and arterioles. Group 1 consisted of 24 autopsy kidneys from patients who died before the advent of steroid therapy, and Group 2, of 26 more recent autopsy specimens from patients treated with steroids and/or immunosuppressive drugs. Group 3 comprised 276 renal biopsies. Group 1 showed characteristic subendothelial eosinophilic deposits in small arteries and arterioles of 8 cases; Group 2 showed similar lesions in 5 specimens, while 3 others revealed evidence of resorption of deposits. Deposits were characterized by clumping and were delimited toward the media by a thick basement membrane. Only one case showed necrotizing arteritis resembling polyarteritis nodosa. Group 3 presented vascular deposits in 19 cases and thrombotic microangiopathy in 2. Electron microscopic appearance of some of the deposits is described. Immunofluorescence microscopy showed a mixture of IgG, IgA, and IgM in 7 cases, a finding that was not seen in a group of non-lupus patients with various vascular lesions. Vascular deposits are generally rare in systemic lupus erythematosus, although in autopsies widely scattered involvement of arteries and arterioles was seen in nearly 1/3 of the cases. The deposits were more common in male patients. The evolution of the lesions could be followed through various stages to eventual sclerosis, particularly in patients treated with steroids or immunosuppressants. Some deposits appeared to resolve after treatment. Patients with vascular deposits had more severe glomerular disease and a more serious clinical course. Thrombotic microangiopathy appears to be a secondary phenomenon whose pathogenesis is unknown.