The major gene for neural tube defects, ct, in the curly-tail (CT) mouse strain was mapped previously to mouse chromosome 4 by combining linkage data from several backcrosses. The penetrance of the neural tube trait, already incomplete in the CT strain, was further reduced in several of these backcrosses, suggesting the existence of recessive modifiers or strain-specific susceptibility alleles. Here we describe the mapping of a curly-tail modifier locus, mct1, to chromosome 17 in moderate and low penetrance crosses of CT with BALB/cByJ and Mus spretus. No effect of mct1 was seen in a higher penetrance cross with the BXD-8/Ty strain, confirming that ct is the major gene in the model. Homozygosity at both ct and mct1 loci was sufficient to account for all of the affected individuals in the BALB/cByJ cross and most of the affected individuals in the M. spretus cross and was the preferred model overall. No evidence was found for epistatic interaction between ct and mct1.