ANCA were detected by indirect immunofluorescence in 34 out of 67 patients with ulcerative colitis (UC, 51%) and in 14 out of 35 patients with Crohn's disease (CD, 40%). All but one ANCA-positive sera produced a perinuclear pattern of fluorescence (P-ANCA) on ethanol-fixed neutrophils. On paraformaldehyde-fixed neutrophils 76% of P-ANCA-positive sera in UC and 50% of P-ANCA-positive sera in CD produced cytoplasmic fluorescence, indicating that, indeed, cytoplasmic antigens are recognized by a considerable number of these sera. By Western blot analysis using whole neutrophil extract as a substrate 46% of sera from patients with UC and 32% of sera from patients with CD showed reactivity with either lactoferrin, polypeptides occurring as a doublet of 66/67 kD mol. wt, or polypeptides occurring as a doublet of 63/54 kD mol. wt, respectively. Identical patterns of reactivity have been observed among P-ANCA-positive sera from patients with autoimmune liver disease and rheumatoid arthritis. These data suggest that ANCA of restricted specificities are not specific for inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), but are present in diverse conditions characterized by chronic idiopathic inflammation.