A transgene, pHRD, is highly methylated in 12 independent mouse lines when in a C57BL/6 strain background, but becomes progressively less methylated when bred into a DBA/2 background. Transgenes inherited from the mother are generally more methylated; however, this parental effect disappears following continued breeding into the nonmethylating strain. Mapping experiments using BXD recombinant inbred mice as well as other inbred strains indicate that a single strain-specific modifier (Ssm-1) linked to, but distinct from, Fv-1 is responsible for the strain effect. In addition to the methylated and unmethylated transgenic phenotypes, certain mice exhibit a partial methylation pattern that is a consequence of an unusual cellular mosaicism. The pHRD transgene, containing target sequences for the V(D)J recombinase, undergoes site-specific recombination only in lymphoid tissues. This V-J joining is restricted primarily to unmethylated transgene copies.