The BB rat develops a syndrome of autoimmune diabetes similar to Type I diabetes of man. It also has a severe T cell lymphopenia. As part of an ongoing breeding program to transfer the diabetogenic genes of the BB rat onto inbred rat strain backgrounds, diabetic animals were used in a backcross (BC)- intercross (IC)-backcross breeding scheme with Brown Norway (BN), Lewis (L), and Wistar-Furth (WF) inbred rats. We have used monoclonal antibodies to analyze both lymphopenia and major histocompatibility (MHC) antigens (the RT1 locus in the rat) in relation to the development of diabetes. To examine T cell subsets we used a panel of monoclonal antibodies, in particular W3/25 and OX19 , which discriminate the abnormal phenotype better than W3/13. In our breeding program, at least two independent genes or gene complexes are required for the expression of diabetes. One gene determines the lymphopenia, is inherited by simple autosomal recessive genetics and is not linked to the MHC. The second gene is linked to the MHC. Both genes are necessary, but neither gene is sufficient by itself for the development of diabetes.