Circulating IgG autoantibodies to myeloperoxidase (MPO) are associated with renal vasculitis and have been implicated in its pathogenesis. However, raised levels of these autoantibodies may persist during clinical remission. We tested whether this paradox could be explained by immunoglobulin subclass switching during disease evolution, since different subclasses have different immunological and biochemical properties. Sera with anti-myeloperoxidase (anti-MPO) activity from 33 patients with active disease and 20 anti-MPO positive follow-up sera were studied by an ELISA using a panel of anti-human IgG subclass monoclonal reagents previously calibrated on human myeloma proteins. Anti-MPO subclass distribution in initial sera was: IgG1, 31 (94%); IgG2, 10 (30%); IgG3, 24 (73%); and IgG4, 22 (67%). IgG3 anti-MPO decreased during follow-up (P less than 0.02), with no change in IgG1 and IgG4. Relative functional affinity of anti-MPO antibodies in purified IgG subclasses was studied by the diethylamine method. IgG3 fractions consistently had a greater affinity for MPO than the other subclasses. Sequential studies in four patients demonstrated an affinity maturation for IgG1 and IgG4 anti-MPO as IgG3 anti-MPO disappeared. We conclude that dynamic changes of subclass distribution and affinity may explain discrepancies between anti-MPO antibody titre and disease expression.