The aim of this study was to investigate the production of anti-Ro/SS-A antibodies in labial salivary glands (LSG) and peripheral blood (PB) of Sjögren's syndrome (SS) patients. The ELISPOT method was performed to quantify the frequency of LSG lymphocytes and PB lymphocytes spontaneously secreting anti-Ro/SS-A antibodies. The total number of IgG-, IgA- and IgM-producing cells was also quantified. The bovine Ro 60-kD protein was used as target antigen. Six of six primary SS patients had LSG B cells producing anti-bovine Ro 60 kD of the IgG isotype, and two of two primary SS patients had in addition PB lymphocytes producing anti-bovine Ro 60 kD of the IgG isotype. The six patients who had IgG antibodies against the Ro/SS-A antigen in LSG all had focus scores of >/= 7 in biopsies of LSG. The results indicate that SS patients with a high degree of local inflammation in LSG have B cells producing anti-Ro/SS-A antibodies in both LSG and PB. Thus, the anti-Ro/SS-A antibodies may have pathogenic importance in the progression of the exocrinopathy of SS.