We have investigated the genetic origin of autoantibody production in several strains of mice that spontaneously develop a systemic lupus erythematosus-like disease. Restriction fragment length polymorphism analyses of gene loci encoding kappa light chain variable regions (Igk-V) demonstrated, as shown previously for the Ig heavy chain locus, that autoantibody production and disease occur in different Igk-V haplotypes. Moreover, autoimmune mice with known genetic derivation inherited their Igk-V loci essentially unaltered from their nonautoimmune ancestors. New Zealand black lupus mice, with unknown genetic derivation, had a possibly recombinant Igk-V haplotype, composed of V kappa loci that were primarily indistinguishable from those of nonautoimmune strains from either of the two potential donor haplotypes. The heavy and light chain gene segments (variable, diversity, joining) encoding anti-DNA antibodies were diverse and often closely related, or even identical, to those found in antibodies to foreign antigens in normal mice. Only 1 of 11 sequenced variable region genes could not be assigned to existing variable region gene families; however, corresponding germline genes were present in the genome of normal mice as well. These data argue against abnormalities in the genes and mechanisms generating antibody diversity in lupus mice and suggest a remarkable genetic and structural diversity in the generation of anti-DNA binding sites.