Several bacterial species (including Streptococcus faecalis, Bacillus cereus, Staphylococcus aureus, and Escherichia coli) were tested for their ability to react with monoclonal anti-DNA antibodies that were derived from MRL-lpr/lpr mice. S. faecalis reacted with 8/15 of such antibodies. The binding was unaffected by DNase, but it was competitively inhibited by DNA. F(ab')2 fragments of the monoclonal antibodies reacted with the bacteria, but Fc fragments did not. Phospholipids extracted from the bacterial cells were able to bind to three representative anti-DNA antibodies that also bound to whole bacteria. The results suggest that bacterial phospholipids might provide an immunogenic stimulus for the production of antibodies that cross-react with DNA. We propose that some anti-DNA auto-antibodies and anti-bacterial antibodies evolve from a restricted group of antibodies with high avidity for the phosphodiester groups that occur in DNA and bacterial cells walls.