Autoantibodies to human pituitary cytosol proteins were determined by immunoblotting in sera from patients with hypopituitarism and their relatives. Reactivity to an M(r) 49,000 protein was significantly more frequent in patients (6/21 (28%) P < 0.05) as well as in relatives (10/35 (28%) P < 0.02) compared with controls (3/44 (6.8%)). Autoantibodies to this particular protein have previously been detected in sera from 70% of patients with biopsy-proven lymphocytic hypophysitis. Unlike patients with biopsy-proven lymphocytic hypophysitis, none of the patients in this study presented with a suspected pituitary adenoma or showed an enlarged sella turcica. Cisternal herniation was seen in 6/21 patients and this may very well represent the end stage of lymphocytic hypophysitis. Since organ specific autoantibodies are frequent in patients with autoimmune endocrine disease as well as in their unaffected relatives, autoantibodies to this M(r) 49,000 pituitary cytosolic protein may represent markers for an immunological process affecting the pituitary gland.