Increased levels of B lymphocyte stimulator (BLyS) are associated with systemic autoimmunity in animal models of spontaneous autoimmune disease, and transgenic animals expressing BLyS develop typical autoimmune disease. Here, we demonstrate significant elevations of BLyS in the patients with systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE). The BLyS isolated from the sera of SLE patients had the same m.w. as the natural soluble form and was able to stimulate B cell activation in vitro. Increased BLyS in SLE patients was partially associated with higher levels of anti-dsDNA Ab of the IgG, IgM, and IgA classes, but not associated with the disease activity. Our results suggest that BLyS may be a useful marker for early activation of an autoimmune diathesis and likely plays a critical role in triggering activation of self-Ag-driven autoimmune B cells in human SLE. BLyS may provide an effective therapeutic target in systemic autoimmunity.