Using immunoprecipitation, we identified 13 patients with antibodies to the signal recognition particle (SRP) from a collection of sera representing 265 poly-myositis/dermatomyositis (PM/DM) patients. Antibody reactivity with SRP was confirmed by enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay and immunoprecipitation with isolated dog pancreas SRP. The antibody was present in the serum of 4% of PM/DM patients, and 18% of PM/ DM patients with anticytoplasmic antibodies other than anti-Jo-1, but not in patients with other conditions who had anticytoplasmic antibodies. Anti-SRP was associated with classic adult PM, and some of these cases were unusually severe and/or of rapid onset; it was not found in patients with overlap syndromes or with DM involvement. Unlike patients with antibodies to aminoacyl-transfer RNA synthetases, patients with anti-SRP had a low frequency of pulmonary fibrosis, as well as of arthritis and Raynaud's phenomenon. Anti-SRP antibodies may serve as a marker for a second, distinct subgroup of adult PM.