Myositis is an autoimmune inflammatory muscle disease of unknown etiology. We demonstrate directly that the antigen to the myositis-specific anti-Jo-1 antibody is histidyl-tRNA synthetase. The anti-Jo-1 antibody inhibits human HeLa and rat liver histidyl-tRNA synthetase. Using conventional and immunoaffinity chromatography with immobilized anti-Jo-1 antibody, we have purified rat liver histidyl-tRNA synthetase which has a subunit Mr 64,000 and an estimated native Mr suggesting an alpha 2 structure. The evidence indicates that the Jo-1 antigen is histidyl-tRNA synthetase, and that some of the histidyl-tRNA synthetase structure are conserved across species.