The acute-phase plasma protein response to disease activity in murine models of autoimmune lupus-like disease was investigated by measurement of the concentration of serum amyloid P component (SAP) in NZB X W and MRL/l mice. The levels of SAP, which is a major acute-phase protein in mice, did not rise at all in response to progression of disease in NZB X W mice between the ages of 1 and 9 mo. This resembles the behavior of acute-phase proteins such as C-reactive protein and serum amyloid A protein in human systemic lupus erythematosus, and just as in human lupus, where the occurrence of intercurrent microbial infection can stimulate an acute-phase response, so injection of bacterial lipopolysaccharide or casein into the NZB X W mice stimulated "normal" acute-phase SAP production. In marked contrast, MRL/l mice developed greatly increased levels of SAP, which correlated closely with progression of their pathology as they aged. The disease profile of the MRL/l strain includes rheumatoid factors and spontaneous polyarthritis and their SAP response resembles the behavior of acute phase proteins in human rheumatoid arthritis. Different patterns of acute-phase response in different autoimmune disorders may thus be a reflection of the genetic predisposition to particular diseases and/or contribute to their pathogenesis. The existence of animal counterparts for the various clinical patterns of human acute-phase protein production will assist in experimental investigation of the underlying mechanisms and of the biological role of the acute-phase response.