In women, infections due to Chlamydia trachomatis frequently result in long-term sequelae including chronic abdominal pain, ectopic pregnancy and infertility. In an attempt to characterise the pathogenesis of the infection, female C3H (H-2k) mice were inoculated intravaginally with different doses of C. trachomatis and then mated with proven male breeder mice. The inoculated mice developed a broad spectrum of clinical manifestations ranging from infertility to asymptomatic shedding. The dose inducing infertility in 50% of the mice was c. 10(5) inclusion-forming units of C. trachomatis. In another group of mice sampled at intervals after intravaginal inoculation, C. trachomatis was recovered from the upper genital tract starting at 24 h after infection. A higher percentage of animals infected during the luteal phase of the oestrous cycle had positive cultures from the middle and upper genital tract than when mice were inoculated during the follicular phase. These results indicate that rapid therapeutic intervention is required to avoid the sequelae resulting from C. trachomatis genital infection, and suggest that hormonal factors play a role in the pathogenesis of the disease.