The influence of dietary fat on autoimmunity in lupus-prone (NZB x NZW)F1 mice has been demonstrated. In defining further the effects of dietary lipid on the immune system of this strain, female weanling mice were placed on four diets differing in quantity and type of fat. Their immunologic response was then studied by a variety of tests at 4 and 7 mo of age. Few differences were seen among the four groups at 4 mo of age. At 7 mo of age, however, the mice receiving diets high in saturated and unsaturated fats had a reduced mitogenic response to T cell mitogens and an enhanced response to the B cell mitogen LPS. Immunoglobulin levels and delayed hypersensitivity responses did not show any consistent differences among the diet groups. At 7 mo, however, mice receiving diets high in unsaturated fat demonstrated hyperresponsiveness to injected sheep red blood cells as measured by the hemolytic plaque technique. In addition, peritoneal leukocytes from the same diet group exhibited an increased response to bromelain-treated autologous erythrocytes which was decreased after treatment with anti-Thy-1 antiserum and complement. Phagocytosis by peritoneal macrophages was significantly decreased in the animals fed high-fat diets, particular high saturated fat. Similarly, natural killer cell activity was markedly reduced in the mice with a high intake of saturated lipid, a finding which correlated with the in vitro production of interferon. These results indicate that diets high in fat influence immune responses and thus can affect the onset and severity of autoimmune disease. A low-fat diet can reduce the development of disease by maintaining normal immune responses. The data also suggest that unsaturated fat may influence T helper cell activity and therefore antibody production, whereas saturated fats may affect cellular immune responses which are dependent on membrane contact.