The transfer of lpr BM stem cells into lethally irradiated non-lpr recipients (including the congenic MRL/+ differing only at the lpr locus) causes GVHD characterized by a wasting syndrome. In this study we investigated the interaction between the autoimmune (lpr) and normal (A-Thy) B, T, and RBC cell lineages in two types of radiation chimeras: MRL/lpr plus A-Thy----(MRL/lpr X A-Thy)F1 and MRL/+ plus A-Thy----(MRL/lpr X A-Thy)F1. Analysis of B cell repopulation by competitive RIA of serum Igh-1 allotype showed that both the MRL and the A-Thy donor cells initially engrafted. However, by 2 to 4 mo post-transplantation the normal A-Thy allotype was barely detectable (reduced greater than 2 orders of magnitude), whereas the autoimmune MRL/lpr allotype persisted at normal levels. Similarly, investigation of the donor origin of peripheral blood T cells by two-color flow cytometry showed that by 8 mo post-transplantation normal A-Thy T cells had been eliminated and only MRL/lpr T cells were present in the circulation. In contrast, erythrocytes from both the MRL/lpr and A-Thy donor strains successfully engrafted the F1 recipients and persisted until the termination of the study. Control chimeras transplanted with a mixture of MRL/+ plus A-Thy BM were stably engrafted with both donor strains in both the erythroid and lymphoid populations. Additional experiments in which either B6/lpr or MRL/lpr (and B6/+ or MRL/+ control) BM cells were transferred into (MRL/lpr X B6/+)F1 and (MRL/lpr X B6/lpr)F1 recipients demonstrated that the development of GVHD was not simply due to increased alloreactivity by the lpr donor cells. In these chimeras only the recipients heterozygous (but not homozygous) for the lpr gene developed lpr-GVHD, although both types of recipients had identical genotypes except at the lpr locus.