Abstract MRL/lpr mice possess an autosomal recessive gene, lpr, which is associated with lymphoproliferation and acceleration of autoimmune disease. Lymphoproliferation has been ascribed to a single gene defect predominantly affecting the T-lymphocyte component of the immune system. MRL/++ mice do not possess the lpr autosomal recessive mutation and do not develop early lymphadenopathy. T-lymphocyte functional activity was studied in these mice using the polyclonal T-cell mitogens PHA and Con A. Our results indicated a significant suppression of the spleen and lymph node response of MRL/lpr mice to these polyclonal mitogens as compared to the MRL/++ response noted as early as 6 weeks of age. In addition, there was a progressive decline in the MRL/lpr spleen and lymph node cell mitogenic responses with increasing age. Spleen and lymph node cells from 20-week MRL/lpr mice were also relatively unresponsive in the mixed lymphocyte culture reaction as compared to cells from MRL/ ++ or BALB/c mice. The in vitro proliferative response of the MRL mice was further examined with respect to possible accessory cell modulation by both macrophages and T cells. It was found that in 20-week MRL/lpr lymph nodes a significant degree of suppression of lymphocyte proliferation could be mediated by the MRL/lpr T cell. Increased lymphocyte proliferation to a mitogenic signal could only be demonstrated in those MRL/lpr mice 3 weeks of age.