Antibodies to histones (AHA) are commonly found in patients with systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE). However, the full profile of AHA and their clinical associations remains unclear. A total of 111 patients with SLE were studied, including 13 patients in whom multiple serum samples were available over several years. IgM, IgG, and IgA antibodies to total core histones, histone complexes, and individual histones were determined by highly sensitive enzyme linked immunosorbent assays (ELISAs). Antibodies to histones were detected in 74% of serum samples, though only at low levels in half of these. Antibodies to each of the individual histones (H1, H2A, H2B, H3, H4) occurred with similar frequencies except for IgG and IgA antibodies to H4, which were uncommon. In contrast, antibodies to the histone complexes H2A-H2B and H3-H4 were detected in only two serum samples and thus do not appear to be a feature of SLE. All three major isotypes of AHA were common and usually occurred with similar frequencies to one another for the various histone specificities. There were few clinical or laboratory associations with AHA; the strongest was between IgG antibodies to total core histones and antibodies to native DNA. Similarly, there was no association between the presence of AHA and disease activity. However, for the patients as a group and in one patient alone, periods of SLE disease activity were associated with higher levels of AHA. Although the profile of antibodies to individual histones varied with time, no profile was identified that corresponded with any specific disease manifestations. It is concluded from this study that although AHA are common in patients with SLE, their clinical value in this syndrome must, at present, be considered limited.