Using an anti-idiotypic antibody previously characterized as specific for the hapten binding site of the 2,4-dinitrophenyl (DNP)-binding BALB/c myeloma protein MOPC-460, we have detected substantial amounts of this idiotype (Id-460) in the serum of normal mice. Whereas the idiotypic material in DNP-immune serum binds to DNP, the Id-460-positive material in normal mouse serum is not specific for DNP. The material in normal serum appears to be immunoglobulin. Furthermore, Id-460-positive, non-DNP-binding monoclonal immunoglobulins that completely inhibit our assay for Id-460 are repeatedly isolated when hybridomas are prepared from LPS-activated normal spleen cells. These data are interpreted in the context of Jerne's network hypothesis. It is our conclusion that the non-DNP-binding form of Id-460 is the inherited form and that this form establishes an idiotypic network favoring the production of anti-DNP bearing Id-460. Thus, the paradox of finding an inherited idiotype in the antibody response to the nonpathogen DNP may be resolved by proposing that the true form of Id-460 is specific for an environmental pathogen and that Id-460 dominance in the anti-DNP response is simply a consequence of idiotype-specific regulatory events preconditioned by Id-460-bearing immunoglobulin specific for antigenic determinants unrelated to DNP.