To investigate the incidence, the specificity and clinical significance of positivity for serum anti-neutrophil cytoplasmic antibody (ANCA) in 31 patients with systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE), the indirect immunofluorescence (IIF) technique and enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA) were used to measure ANCA. Purified myeloperoxidase (MPO), lactoferrin (LF), cathepsin-G (CTG) and elastase (HLE) served as ANCA antigens for ELISA. Thirteen (42%) of the 31 SLE patients showed positivity for perinuclear, but not cytoplasmic, ANCA by IIF. Five of 31 sera were positive for MPO, 10 for LF, 1 for CTG and 0 for HLE by ELISA. Patients positive for ANCA had a higher score of SLE disease activity index (SLEDAI) than those without ANCA. There was no correlation between ANCA positivity, clinical manifestations, or organic involvement. While the ANCA in patients with SLE reflected disease activity, it was unrelated to organic involvement.