Precipitating anti-PM-Scl antibodies are present in sera from patients with polymyositis, scleroderma, and polymyositis/scleroderma overlap syndromes. By indirect immunofluorescence microscopy, anti-PM-Scl antibodies stained the nucleolus in cells of different tissues and species, suggesting that the antigen is highly conserved. By electron microscopy, anti-PM-Scl antibodies reacted primarily with the granular component of the nucleolus. Drugs that inhibit rRNA synthesis had a marked effect on the expression of PM-Scl antigen. In actinomycin D-treated cells, immunofluorescence staining by anti-PM-Scl was significantly reduced with residual staining restricted to the granular regions of nucleoli. Treatment with 5,6-dichloro-beta-D-ribofuranosylbenzimidazole (DRB) also selectively reduced nucleolar staining. On a molecular level, anti-PM-Scl antibodies precipitated 11 polypeptides with molecular weights (Mr) ranging from 110,000 to 20,000. The Mr 80,000 and 20,000 polypeptides were phosphorylated. Evidence suggests that the PM-Scl antigen complex may be related to a preribosomal particle.