Autoantibodies directed at the intracellular Ro ribonucleoprotein complex are found in the serum of patients with systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) and related autoimmune diseases. The antigenic stimulus for the induction of these autoantibodies is unknown, although we have previously demonstrated that the Ro protein and immunoglobulin G (IgG) share immunologic determinants bound by anti-Ro antibodies. The present study further defines the fine specificity of this cross-reactive binding. Using both patient autoanti-Ro antibodies and antigen-induced rabbit anti-Ro serum, the binding specificity for IgG was located to the heavy chains of IgG outside the Fc domain. F(ab')2 fragments of IgG were observed to inhibit specific Ro binding by either human or antigen-induced rabbit sera, while Fc fragments of IgG failed to inhibit Ro binding. Anti-Ro sera were found to bind the heavy chains of IgG in immunoblots, and the antibodies eluted from these heavy chains were capable of immunoprecipitating the Ro particle from human cell extracts. Not all patient sera with anti-Ro antibodies possessed IgG binding antibodies. Studies of cyanogen bromide digestion fragments of IgG implicate the hinge region of IgG as the region cross-reactive with the Ro protein. The nature of this cross-reactivity may be important in understanding the induction and/or perpetuation of the anti-Ro response in patients with autoimmune disease.