Seventeen pairs of longitudinal studies of mononuclear phagocyte system (MPS) Fc receptor function in 15 patients with systemic lupus were performed to explore the dynamic range of Fc receptor dysfunction in lupus and to establish the relationships between MPS function, clinical disease activity and circulating immune complexes (CIC). Fc receptor function was measured by the clearance of IgG sensitized autologous erythrocytes. At the time of first study the degree of MPS dysfunction was correlated with both clinical activity (P < 0.05) and CIC (P < 0.05). At follow-up patients with a change in clinical status show significantly larger changes in clearance function compared to clinically stable patients (206 min vs 7 min; P < 0.001). MPS function changed concordantly with a change in clinical status in all cases (P = 0.002). Longitudinal assessments did not demonstrate concordance of changes in MPS function and CIC, measured by three different assays. The MPS Fc receptor defect in systemic lupus is dynamic and closely associated with disease activity. The lack of concordance of the defect with changes in CIC suggests that either CIC does not adequately reflect receptor site saturation or that other factors may also contribute to the magnitude of MPS dysfunction.