To evaluate the anti-endothelial cell antibodies (AECA), anti-cardiolipin antibodies (aCL) and serum mannose-binding lectin (MBL) profiles of a large cohort of Yemeni patients with rheumatic heart disease (RHD) and to correlate these findings with clinical features of the disease. Patients (n = 140) were recruited from Al-Thawra Hospital in Sana'a, Yemen. All had RHD diagnosed according to modified Jones' criteria. We also studied 140 sex- and age-matched healthy blood donors from the same area. Echocardiography was performed according to the recommendations of the American Society of Echocardiography. Solid phase enzyme-linked immunosorbent assays (ELISAs) were used to measure AECA and aCL titres and serum MBL levels. Forty per cent of the patients were AECA-positive, but only 7·8% were positive for aCL antibodies. Serum MBL levels were significantly lower in the RHD group (median 4221 ng/ml versus 5166 ng/ml in healthy controls). AECA titres were correlated positively with patient age, duration of RHD and the severity of aortic stenosis, as determined by echocardiographic findings. In several autoimmune rheumatic diseases, such as systemic lupus erythematosus, vasculitis and scleroderma, AECA have been shown to play pathogenic roles by producing proinflammatory and procoagulant effects (increased expression of adhesion molecules and tissue factors, increased cytokine release) in endothelial cells. In RHD, these autoantibodies might represent a pathological link between activation of the valvular endothelium and valvular damage.