There is evidence that the immune system may play a role in the pathogenesis of autonomic neuropathy in Type 1 (insulin-dependent) diabetes mellitus. In the present study, we investigated the presence of autoantibodies to sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous structures and their correlation with other conventional autoantibodies in well-characterised diabetic populations, with or without diabetic neuropathy, and normal subjects. An indirect immunofluorescent complement-fixation technique was used, with monkey adrenal gland, rabbit cervical ganglia and vagus nerve as substrates. Of the patients with symptomatic autonomic neuropathy 33% were positive for at least one autoantibody (20% anti-sympathetic ganglia, 10% anti-vagus nerve and 13% anti-adrenal medulla). The frequency of having one or more antibodies to nervous tissues and the prevalence of anti-cervical ganglia antibodies were significantly higher in the neuropathic patients than in the diabetic control subjects with disease of similar duration and in the normal subjects (p < 0.05). Of the patients without complications with diabetes of shorter duration 33% were also positive for at least one autoantibody (13% anti-ganglia, 13% anti-vagus nerve and 13% anti-adrenal medulla). No correlation was found with other tissue autoantibodies, including islet cell antibodies. Our data indicate that nervous tissue autoantibodies are associated with symptomatic autonomic neuropathy. Anti-sympathetic ganglia and anti-vagus nerve antibodies seem to be more disease-specific. Patients with diabetes of shorter duration who were positive for these autoantibodies may represent pre-neuropathic patients.