The relationship between expression of xenotropic virus and the development of autoimmunization was studied in the progeny of crosses between New Zealand Black (NZB) and SWR mice. The (F1 X SWR) and F2 progeny segregated into three phenotypes: high-virus, low-virus, and virus-negative; F1 and (F1 X NZB) progeny were always high-virus. Autoantibodies, immune deposit nephritis and lymphomas developed in the progeny of these crosses. The virological phenotype of the animal could be dissociated from the presence of either autoantibodies or nephritis. For example, mice that expressed titers of virus as high as the NZB parent failed to develop signs of autoimmunization, even up to 24 mo of age. By contrast, some (F1 X SWR) and F2 mice that expressed low titers of virus developed autoimmune disease. Furthermore, a proportion of virus-negative mice produced autoantibodies and were found to have typical immune deposit nephritis. No viral antigens could be detected in the renal lesions of such virus-negative animals. By contrast with the dissociation between expression of virus and occurrence of nephritis, the presence of antibodies to DNA correlated with the development of renal lesions. We conclude that the genes that determine the expression of infectious xenotropic virus in NZB mice segregate independently from those that are involved in the autoimmune disease of these animals.