MRL-lpr mice, which develop severe autoimmune disease, explore novel objects less well than do their congenic MRL(-)+/+ controls, in which symptoms of the disease are relatively mild. Moreover, diminished exploration in MRL-lpr mice correlates with the elevated titers of antinuclear antibodies (ANA) in their sera, suggesting that this behavioral deficit is caused by the autoimmune process. To test the hypothesis that autoimmunity affects behavior, in this study we examine whether treatment of the autoimmune process will reduce the difference in performance between the two MRL substrains in the novel-object test. Forty mice in each substrain were treated from 4 to 10 wk of age with the immunosuppressive drug, cyclophosphamide (100 mg/kg/wk, IP) or a saline vehicle. The immunosuppressive treatment reduced ANA titers to low levels and eliminated ANA production completely in 55% of MRL-lpr mice, suggesting an attenuation of the autoimmune process. In addition, treatment with cyclophosphamide, but not saline, abolished significant differences in exploration between the MRL-lpr and MRL +/+ groups, as measured by the latency to touch a novel object and the time spent exploring it. Thus, the present results suggest that a treatment which ameliorates autoimmune symptoms can concurrently remove the substrain difference in behavior. The effect of cyclophosphamide in the MRL-lpr group is believed to reflect the suppression of pathogenic immune factor(s) that alter behavior during the onset of autoimmune disease.