beta 2-Glycoprotein I (beta 2GPI) has been identified as a cofactor in the recognition of the phospholipid Ag cardiolipin (CL) by anticardiolipin Ab (aCL) purified from patients with autoimmune diseases. However, there is considerable controversy as to the exact nature of the epitopes to which these Abs are directed. mAb derived from patients with the antiphospholipid syndrome bound to CL only in the presence of beta 2GPI. Synthetic peptides that span the fifth C-terminal domain of beta 2GPI supported the binding of one of the mAbs to CL in a beta 2GPI-free system. These peptides possessed the phospholipid binding sequence Cys281-Lys-Asn-Lys-Glu-Lys-Lys-Cys288. Three of the mAbs bound to beta 2GPI that had been adsorbed on gamma-irradiated microtiter plates. Binding to beta 2GPI was inhibited in a dose-dependent manner by the peptides from the carboxyl-terminal end of beta 2GPI and soluble beta 2GPI, indicating that the mAb bound to peptides and beta 2GPI in free solution. Thus, mAbs derived from patients with the antiphospholipid syndrome have specificity for epitopes on the fifth domain of beta 2GPI. Our results support the idea that beta 2GPI acts as a primary Ag for these Abs.