We studied the nervous systems and tumors of two patients with anti-Yo-associated paraneoplastic cerebellar degeneration (PCD). In both patients the underlying tumor was an ovarian adenocarcinoma that expressed Yo antigens and contained extensive infiltrates of lymphocytes and plasma cells. The major central nervous system findings were a complete loss of cerebellar Purkinje cells with Bergmann astrogliosis. One patient had inflammatory infiltrates in the medulla and pons, and moderate axonal loss and demyelination involving the spinal cord. No inflammatory infiltrates were identified in the cerebrum, cerebellum or brain-stem of the other patient. Using quantitative Western blot analysis, deposits of anti-Yo IgG could not be demonstrated in the nervous system, possibly as a result of the loss of cells expressing Yo antigens. The detection of the anti-Yo antibody as a common marker of PCD in one patient with inflammatory infiltrates and another without infiltrates suggests that some PCD pathologically classified as "non-inflammatory" may represent a final burn-out stage of a cellular immune-mediated disorder. Our findings indicate that Purkinje cells are the main, but not necessarily the exclusive, targets of this disorder.