We describe a patient with histologically confirmed relapsing polychondritis, an episodic systemic disorder. Although the etiology is unknown and its pathogenesis is incompletely understood, there is evidence strongly suggesting immunologically mediated mechanisms. Enzyme linked immunosorbent assays, immunoblotting and cellular immune responses using lymphocyte proliferation assays showed strong parallel humoral and cellular immune reactivities against collagens type IX and XI. There was also a considerable response to collagen type II which, however, was less pronounced compared to collagen type IX and was directed to native epitopes. Our findings demonstrate a highly distinct immune response to minor matrix collagens in a destructive cartilage disease and thus strongly argue against nonspecific anticollagen immune reactions simply representing epiphenomena resulting from cartilage damage.