MN is characterized by the glomerular deposition of IgG4 immune complexes. This suggests that nephritogenic immune responses in MN are of the Th2 T helper cell type; however, the pathogenesis of MN is still unknown. In this study we examined sera from patients with primary MN for antibodies to renal proteins. A 47-kD protein in both human and porcine renal extracts was found by immunoblotting to react specifically with serum IgG from some patients. This protein was purified from porcine kidney and identified as alpha-enolase on the basis of its partial amino acid sequences. Sera from 87 patients with primary MN, 24 patients with secondary MN (15 rheumatoid arthritis patients, nine systemic lupus erythematosus patients), and 16 healthy subjects were examined by ELISA using purified alpha-enolase. In 60 (69%) patients with primary MN and 14 (58%) patients with secondary MN, the measured optical density values, and hence serum anti-alpha-enolase antibody levels, were greater than the mean + 2 s.d. of healthy subjects. Immunoblot analysis showed that IgG1 or IgG3 was the predominant subclass (Th1 T helper cell type subclass) of antibodies against alpha-enolase in patients with primary and secondary MN. Since circulating antibodies against alpha-enolase have recently been reported in patients with various autoimmune disorders, our results suggest that a number of patients with presumed primary MN may also have abnormalities in Th1 T helper cell-mediated immune responses.