T cell proliferative responses to Mycobacterium leprae were measured after immunization of mice at the base of the tail with antigen and challenging lymphocytes from draining lymph nodes in culture with M. leprae. This T cell response to M. leprae has been compared in 18 inbred strains of mice. C57BL/10J mice were identified as low responder mice. The congenic strains B10.M and B10.Q were found to be high responders, whereas B10.BR and B10.P were low responders. F1 (B10.M X C57BL/10J) and F1 (B10.Q X C57BL/10J) hybrid mice were found to be low responders, similar to the C57BL/10J parent, indicating that the low responsive trait is dominant. Whereas B10.BR mice were shown to be low responders to M. leprae, B10.AKM and B10.A(2R) were clearly high responders, indicating that the H-2D region influences the magnitude of the T cell proliferative response. Gene complementation within the H-2 region was evident. Genes outside the H-2 region were also shown to influence the response to M. leprae. C3H/HeN were shown to be high responder mice, whereas other H-2k strains, BALB.K, CBA/N, and B10.BR, were low responders. Gene loci that influence the T cell proliferation assay have been discussed and were compared to known background genes which may be important for the growth of intracellular parasites. Because mycobacteria are intracellular parasites for antigen-presenting cells, genes that affect bacterial growth in these cells will also influence subsequent immune responses of the host.