Interstitial nephritis occurs spontaneously in kd/kd mice, but the mechanisms leading to this disease have not been fully elucidated. The earliest manifestation of a phenotype is the appearance of ultrastructural defects in the mitochondria of mice as young as 42 days of age. To examine the influence of the environment on the phenotype, homozygous B6.kd/kd mice were transferred from specific pathogen-free (SPF) conditions to a germfree (GF) environment, and the development of the disease was observed. The GF state resulted in a highly significant reduction in the frequency of tubulointerstitial nephritis. In addition, GF conditions markedly reduced the appearance of the mitochondrial phenotype, with no sign of mitochondrial abnormalities in GF mice of up to 155 days of age. These results suggest that environmental factors are involved in the progression of all known manifestations of this disease phenotype.