74 overlapping peptides of varying lengths from Klebsiella pneumoniae nitrogenase reductase (residues 181-199) and from the HLA B27.1 molecule (residues 65-85) were synthesized and tested by ELISA against sera from HLA B27+ ankylosing spondylitis (AS) patients, and sera from HLA B27+ and HLA B27- healthy first-degree relatives. Antibody activity in AS sera to Klebsiella peptides of four to eight amino acids was maximal with the peptide NSRQTDR. Activity to HLA B27 peptides was maximal with the peptide KAKAQTDR (named epitope I). These peptides overlap with, but are proximal to the NH2 terminus from QTDRED, which is homologous in HLA B27.1 and K. pneumoniae nitrogenase reductase. A second weaker reactive site was noted in the HLA B27.1 peptides, proximal to the COOH terminus from the homologous sequence, namely peptide REDLRTLL (named epitope II). Little activity was seen against peptides that included the entire homologous sequence. Sera from 50 AS patients showed higher total Ig activity against peptides KAKAQTDR (p less than 0.001) and NSRQTDR (p less than 0.02) than did sera from 22 B27+ and 22 B27- healthy controls. These data indicate that AS patient sera contain antibodies that bind to K. pneumoniae nitrogenase peptides and HLA B27.1 peptides, and that there are at least two epitopes on HLA B27.1 in the alpha 1 domain, at the MHC groove region, that are autoantigenic in AS patients. Epitope I may be a site for crossreactivity between HLA B27 and Klebsiella.