Genetic variation in human Nod2 has been associated with susceptibility to Crohn's disease. The mouse Nod2 locus is located at chromosome 8 and composed of 12 exons, 11 of which encode the Nod2 protein. Sequence analysis of Nod2 from 45 different strains of Mus musculus and Mus spretus revealed extensive polymorphism involving all exons of Nod2. Of the 140 polymorphic sites identified, 68 were located in the coding region, of which 28 created amino acid substitutions in Nod2. Expression of mouse Nod2 activated NF-kappaB and conferred responsiveness to bacterial components, an activity that was deficient in mutants corresponding to those associated with susceptibility to Crohn's disease. These studies demonstrate a conserved role for Nod2 in the response to bacterial components and suggest that selective evolutionary pressure exerted by pathogens may have contributed to the high level of variability of Nod2 sequences in both humans and mice.