The immune epitopes of proliferating cell nuclear antigen (PCNA), also called cyclin, were analyzed by determining the reactivity between PCNA peptide fragments and anti-PCNA antibodies from lupus patients, murine monoclonal antibody (19A2), and rabbit anti-NH2-terminal peptide antibody. Limited digestion of PCNA/cyclin with Staphylococcus aureus V8 protease resulted in several peptide fragments. Five fragments of 30, 20, 15, 14, and 13 kDa were reactive with rabbit anti-NH2-terminal peptide antibody denoting that they contained the NH2-terminal peptide. The 30- and 20-kDa fragments reacted with 19A2 but the others did not. Lupus sera reacted with 17- and 15-kDa peptide fragments allowing their classification into three groups. Two of eight sera (type A) reacted only with the 17-kDa fragment. Two others (type B) reacted with both the 17- and 15-kDa fragments and the remaining four sera (type C) reacted only with the 15-kDa fragment. The sera reacting with the 15-kDa fragment also reacted with the 20-kDa fragment, but the sera reactive only with the 17-kDa fragment did not, indicating that the 17-kDa fragment was not a degradation product of 20-kDa fragments. The 19A2 epitope resided in the region between 15 and 20 kDa from the NH2 terminus, whereas there was at least one distinct epitope on each 15- and 17-kDa peptide, which were recognized by lupus autoantibodies.