Expression of the highly conserved 90 kDa heat shock protein (Hsp90) is elevated in the peripheral blood mononuclear cells of approximately 25% of patients with SLE. Conflicting data have been published about the frequency of antibodies to Hsp90 with the previous methodology using a complex Western blot system. We now describe an ELISA to measure autoantibodies to Hsp90 and Hsp70 in SLE patients, healthy controls and patients with a variety of autoimmune rheumatic diseases. IgG and IgM antibodies were elevated in 26 and 35% of SLE patients, respectively. These results show autoantibodies to Hsp90 (but not Hsp70) are elevated in a significant proportion of patients with SLE (P < 0.025) compared to healthy controls; and that those with raised antibody levels were more likely to have renal disease and a low C3 level (P < 0.02).