Clinical, laboratory and pathological factors in 35 females with diffuse proliferative lupus glomerulonephritis were analyzed to determine the prognostic significance of the individual variables. The clinical and laboratory variables were age, serum creatinine (Cr), serum C3, serum C4 and proteinuria at the time of biopsy while the biopsy ones included intraglomerular monocytic infiltration (NSE index), total glomerular deposits, extent of subendothelial deposits, extent of extraglomerular deposits, tubulo-interstitial inflammation, relative tubulo-interstitial volume and total pathologic score. Standard morphometric and counting procedures were used to determine the levels of all pathologic variables but pathologic score and extra glomerular deposits where grading estimates were done. Survival curves were determined by the life table method. Logrank and chi-square tests were used to establish levels of statistical significance. Seven patients developed established renal failure (Cr greater than or equal to 2.0 on two or more occasions at least 3 months apart) and nine showed significant deterioration of renal function (decrease in CrCl of 25% or more in between biopsy and last follow-up visit or an increase in serum Cr of 0.4 mg/dl or more over the follow-up period). The 5-year renal survival rate (absence of established renal failure) for the whole group was 77%. Serum Cr (p less than .005) and extent of extraglomerular deposits (p less than .025) were shown to be significant prognostic factors for renal survival. Of the seven patients who developed renal failure none had an NSE index greater than 3.0 and one had a C3 greater than or equal to 45 mg/dl. Statistically these factors were weak prognostic indicators (0.5 less than p less than .1). Multivariate analysis demonstrated that the extraglomerular deposit factor contributed significant additional prognostic information to that provided by Cr. Although not important as a prognostic factor on its own, the NSE index significantly improved the prognostic performance of serum Cr. The product of the NSE index and serum C3 proved to be a strong prognostic factor (p less than .005).