Alcoholic liver injury has been reported to be directed preferentially against the proteins of the cell membrane, sparing the phospholipids. However, antiphospholipid antibodies against certain cell membrane phospholipids are known to be associated with a variety of diseases. We undertook this investigation to determine whether antiphospholipid antibodies were present in the serum of patients with alcoholic liver disease. We investigated seventy long-term alcoholic patients (> 80 gm ethanol/day for > 1 yr) and 8 normal nonalcoholic controls by means of enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay to determine whether serum antibodies were generated against the following membrane phospholipids: phosphatidylserine, phosphatidylinositol, phosphatidylethanolamine, phosphatidylglycerol, diphosphatidylglycerol (cardiolipin) and phosphatidic acid. Group 1 comprised alcoholic patients with normal liver function (n = 13), group 2 comprised alcoholic patients with abnormal liver function (n = 16), group 3 comprised patients with alcoholic hepatitis or cirrhosis (n = 41) and group 4 comprised nonalcoholic controls (n = 8). The antibody prevalence was 15% in group 1, 31% in group 2, 81% in group 3 and 0% in group 4. In group 3, 20 of 41 patients had antibodies against several cell membrane phospholipids (i.e., phosphatidylethanolamine, phosphatidylserine, phosphatidylglycerol, phosphatidic acid, cardiolipin and phosphatidylinositol). The antiphosphatidylethanolamine isotype was IgA or IgM in 25 of 41 of these patients. Both IgA (p < 0.01) and IgM (p < 0.008) antiphosphatidylethanolamine correlated significantly with disease severity. Antiphospholipid antibodies in alcoholic patients seem to reflect disease progression and correlate significantly with disease severity.