Disease lesion mimics provide an excellent biological system to study the genetic basis of cell death in plants. Many lesion mimics show variation in phenotype expression in different genetic backgrounds. Our goal was to identify quantitative trait loci (QTL) modifying lesion mimic expression thereby identifying genetic modifiers of cell death. A recessive lesion mimic, les23, in a severe-expressing line was crossed to the maize inbred line Mo20W, a lesion-suppressing line, and an F(2) population was developed for QTL analysis. In addition to locating les23 to the short arm of chromosome 2, this analysis detected significant loci for modification of lesion expression. One highly significant locus was found on the long arm of chromosome 2. The Mo20W allele at this QTL significantly delayed initiation of the lesion phenotype and decreased the final lesion severity. Other QTL with lesser effect affected severity of lesion expression without affecting lesion initiation date. Our results demonstrate that dramatic change in lesion phenotype can be controlled by a single major QTL. The presumed function of this QTL in normal plants is to regulate some aspect of the cell death pathway underlying the les23 phenotype.