Circulating muscle-specific antimyolemmal antibodies (AMLAs) were found in 18 of 61 patients with secondary dilated cardiomyopathy (DC). All 18 patients had clinical or histologic evidence of previous perimyocarditis. AMLAs were found both in patients' serum samples and bound to the sarcolemmal sheath of the autologous myocardial biopsy specimen. Only AMLAs in postmyocardiac DC induced cytolysis of vital cardiocytes in the presence of complement, whereas hepatocytes remained unaffected. Titers of AMLAs correlated with the degree of cardiocytolysis. In contrast, antiinterfibrillary antibodies were found in 49% patients with primary DC (n = 79) and in 61% of patients (n = 30) with alcoholic DC. The incidence of antifibrillary antibodies of the antimyosin type was 23 and 24%, respectively. Incidence of both antibodies increased according to the severity assessed by New York Heart Association functional classes. Circulating immune complexes assayed by a new Clq-solid phase fluorometric assay were present in 30% of patients with postmyocarditic DC only. Lymphocyte-mediated cytotoxicity against heterologous cardiac target cells (K-cell activity) was measured in 33% of patients each with primary and secondary alcoholic DC but not postmyocarditic DC. There were no blocking factors in primary but were some in alcoholic heart disease.