Mice and humans with systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) have been studied with regard to cellular, genetic and molecular genetic abnormalities. B cell hyperactivity and autoantibody production are the hallmarks of this illness. In humans with SLE, there is increased stem cell, B cell precursor and B cell proliferation. The same is true of NZB mice. In lpr/lpr and gld/gld mice, marked expansion of a subpopulation of T cells allows extrathymic terminal T cell maturation and secondary B cell hyperactivity. Androgens suppress these processes and polyclonal immune activators accelerate them. Three types of genes are identified: inducing genes, accelerating genes and background genes. These give rise to abnormal expression of various cellular oncogenes, T cell receptor genes and immunoglobulin genes. The data suggest that abnormal immune regulation plays a critical role in the development of SLE, with polyclonal B cell activation being common to both mice and humans with SLE. Different genetic and cellular abnormalities underlie the ultimate syndrome, the common denominator, generalized autoimmunity, that we call SLE.