Non-obese diabetic (NOD) mice spontaneously develop diabetic signs akin to those of Type I diabetes in man. Insulitis, i.e., lymphocytic infiltration around and into the pancreatic islets is one of the characteristics of such mice. It is also the etiologic pathological lesion in the development of diabetes mellitus in NOD mice. Thus, we chose insulitis as a marker for genetic analysis of the development of diabetes mellitus in NOD mice and clarified the mode of its inheritance. In breeding studies between NOD and C57BL/6J mice, insulitis was not observed in the F1 and (F1 X C57BL/6J) backcross generations, but was found with incidences of 3.9% in females and 1.4% in males in the F2 generation and 23.7% in females and 12.1% in males in the (F1 X NOD) backcross generation. These incidences in the F2 and (F1 X NOD) backcross females corresponded approximately to 1/16 and 1/4 of the incidences of 89.7% in the NOD females, respectively. A similar relationship was observed between the F2 and (F1 X NOD) backcross males and the NOD males. When the gene expressivity of both sexes for a double recessive homozygote was assumed to be the incidences of insulitis in 9-week-old NOD females and males, respectively, the expected numbers of both sexes with and without insulitis in the F2 and backcross generations agreed well with the observed ones. These observations suggest that two recessive genes on independent autosomal chromosomes are necessary for the development of insulitis in NOD mice.