This study explores the relationship between autoimmunity and the myb proto-oncogene, a gene important for T cell development. The lpr/lpr mice had very large amounts of myb RNA in the lymph node (LN) cells; but unexpectedly, they had abnormally low levels of myb RNA in the thymus, an organ normally rich in myb RNA. Mice with the gld/gld genotype had high myb RNA levels in peripheral LN, similar to lpr/lpr mice, but had normal thymic myb RNA levels. Both lpr/lpr and gld/gld mice and an AILD patient with lymphadenopathy and high myb RNA in peripheral blood cells were treated with cyclophosphamide (CY). In all cases. the CY eliminated the lymph-adenopathy and corrected the abnormal myb expression. However, there were significant differences in the clinical and cellular responses to this drug. A single large dose of CY led to marked regression of the lymphadenopathy of gld/gld mice and long-term amelioration of their autoimmune syndrome. In contrast, similar treatment of lpr/lpr mice failed to alter either the lymphadenopathy or the disease process. Consistent with these clinical findings, LN myb was normalized in gld/gld mice by a single injection of CY, whereas there was no effect on myb expression in lpr/lpr mice. The AILD patient reacted much like the gld/gld mice in that myb RNA levels in the peripheral blood, and bone marrow returned to normal after only three doses of CY. The lymphadenopathy and high levels of LN myb mRNA of the lpr/lpr mice could be normalized; this occurred only after long-term treatment with CY. These events were accompanied by an increase in thymic myb mRNA from low levels. These studies have combined a molecular probe with CY therapy to provide insights into the cellular bases for lymphoproliferative autoimmune diseases.