Serum from a patient showing symptoms related to autoimmunity was found to contain autoantibodies to the nuclear mitotic apparatus (NuMA) protein and to several novel nuclear antigens with estimated molecular weights of 40, 43, 72, 74 and 82 kDa. Using this serum for screening a human cDNA expression library a 2.5 kb cDNA clone was isolated which encoded the complete sequence of a protein of 633 amino acids. Sequence analysis revealed a modular structure of the protein: an acidic N-terminal region of approximately 150 amino acids was followed by three adjacent consensus sequence RNA binding domains located in the central part of the protein. In the C-terminal portion a nuclear localization signal and an octapeptide (PPPRMPPP) with similarity to a major B cell epitope of the snRNP core protein B were identified. This was followed by a glycine- and arginine-rich section of approximately 120 amino acids forming another type of RNA binding motif, a RGG box. Interestingly, three copies of a tyrosine-rich decapeptide were found interspersed in the RGG box region. The major in vitro translation product of the cDNA co-migrated in SDS-PAGE with the 82 kDa polypeptide that was recognized by autoantibodies. The structural motifs as well as the immunofluorescence pattern generated by anti-82 kDa antibodies suggested that the antigen was one of the proteins of the heterogeneous nuclear ribonucleoprotein (hnRNP) complex. Subsequently the 82 kDa antigen was identified as hnRNP R protein by its presence in immunoprecipitated hnRNP complexes and co-migration of the recombinant protein with this hitherto uncharacterized hnRNP constituent in two-dimensional gel electrophoresis. The concomitant autoimmune response to a hnRNP component of the pre-mRNA processing machinery and to NuMA, a protein engaged in mitotic events and reported to be associated with mRNA splicing complexes in interphase, may indicate physical and functional association of these antigens. Support for this notion comes from observations that concomitant or coupling of autoantibody responses to proteins which are associated with each other as components of subcellular particles are often found in autoimmune diseases.