Fas ligand (FasL) is a member of the tumor necrosis factor family and induces apoptosis in Fas (CD95)-bearing target cells. In this study, we generated several mAbs that react with mouse FasL (mFasL) and characterized their functional properties. One of these mAbs, K10, specifically reacted with mFasL derived from C57BL/6 (B6) mice, but not that from BALB/c mice as estimated by surface staining and blocking of cytotoxic activities of mFasL transfectants, suggesting a polymorphism of mFasL. Sequence analysis of mFasL cDNA from several strains revealed that BALB/c and DBA/2 mice have three nucleotide differences from the known B6 and C3H sequences, which result in two amino acid substitutions (Thr-184 --> Ala-184 and Glu-218 --> Gly-218) in the extracellular region. Analysis of the K10 reactivity and genotyping by PCR-restriction fragment length polymorphism revealed that inbred mice segregate into the following two allotypes: mFasL.1 (B6, C3H, MRL, SJL, NOD, NZB, NZW) and mFasL.2 (BALB/c, DBA/1, DBA/2). Interestingly, COS7 cells expressing BALB/c FasL lysed Fas-bearing target cells more efficiently than those expressing B6 FasL. Furthermore, BALB/c-derived CD8-FasL fusion protein, which is composed of the extracellular domains of human CD8alpha and mFasL, exhibited 9-fold higher specific activity than did B6-derived CD8-FasL. These results suggest that in mFasL.2 mice the Fas/FasL system works more effectively than in mFasL.1 mice.