Opsonization of apoptotic cardiocytes by maternal anti-Ro/SSA and anti-La/SSB antibodies contributes to tissue injury in the neonatal lupus syndrome. The objective of the current study was to quantify the surface membrane expression of Ro/La components during different phases of apoptosis and map the Ro/La apotopes (epitopes expressed on apoptotic cells) bound by cognate antibodies. Multi-parameter flow cytometry was used to define early and late apoptotic populations and their respective binding by monospecific anti-Ro and anti-La IgGs. Anti-Ro60 bound specifically to early apoptotic Jurkat cells and remained accessible on the cell surface throughout early and late apoptosis. In contrast, anti-La bound exclusively to late apoptotic cells in experiments controlled for non-specific membrane leakage of IgG. Ro52 was not accessible for antibody binding on either apoptotic population. The immunodominant NH2-terminal and RNA recognition motif (RRM) epitopes of La were expressed as apotopes on late apoptotic cells, confirming recent in vivo findings. An immunodominant internal epitope of Ro60 that contains the RRM, and is recognized by a majority of sera from mothers of children with congenital heart block (CHB) and patients with primary Sjögren's syndrome, was also accessible as an apotope on early apoptotic cells. The distinct temporal expression of the immunodominant Ro60 and La apotopes indicates that these intracellular autoantigens translocate independently to the cell surface, and supports a model in which maternal antibody populations against both Ro60 and La apotopes act in an additive fashion to increase the risk of tissue damage in CHB.