Epidemiological, clinical and serological data of uranium miners with symptoms of connective tissue diseases (CTD) were collected during the control examinations for occupational lung diseases since 1975. Twenty eight definite (four or more ARA criteria) and 15 probable (2-3 ARA criteria) SLE were diagnosed. The estimated prevalence among heavily silica exposed uranium miners was up to 93 in 100,000. The only significant differences to nonexposed SLE patients were decreased frequency of arthritis and photosensitivity and the absence of anti-Sm and anti-U1-RNP antibodies. ANA were found in all definite SLE patients examined with the following specificities: anti-dsDNA (in 44.4%), & anti-Ro/SSA (in 55.6%, four cases together with anti-dsDNA) and anti-La/SSB (in 22.2%). The autoantibody profiles of patients with probable SLE were similar, but with a lower frequency of ANA, anti-dsDNA and anti-Ro/SSA. Middle to high-titred autoantibodies to dsDNA, Ro/SSA and La/SSB were detected in 3.2% uranium miners with no (N = 1229) and in 20.6% with some symptoms (one ARA criterion and/or two or more of other CTD typical symptoms, N = 68) of CTD development. We conclude, that the strong exposure to dust with a high content of silica may predispose to or initiate the development of SLE. The detection of SLE-typical antibodies in quartz dust-exposed miners may indicate a higher risk for the development of systemic autoimmune disease.