To determine the genetic requirements for the development of inflammatory arthritis in MRL-lpr/lpr mice, clinical, serologic, and pathologic features of lpr/lpr and +/+ mice of MRL, B6, C3H, and AKR strains were studied. Arthritis was evaluated by histopathologic examination of the knee joint, while sera were tested for the presence of rheumatoid factor (RF) and anti-DNA activity by ELISA. Of the strains tested to age 7 months, only the MRL-lpr/lpr mice developed histologic evidence of arthritis. All lpr mice, however, produced both IgM RF and IgG RF, although amounts varied among strains. These results indicate that the lpr gene as well as another gene(s) in the MRL background are necessary for the development of inflammatory arthritis and that this lesion may be independent of RF production.