The activation of T lymphocytes requires both Ag-mediated signaling through the TCR as well as costimulatory signals transmitted through B7-1 and/or B7-2 with CD28. The interference of B7-mediated costimulatory signals has been proposed as one immunotherapeutic intervention for the prevention autoimmune disease. This study has examined autoantibody responses and autoimmune pathology in a murine model of human systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE), the MRL-lpr/lpr mouse, genetically deficient in B7-1 or B7-2, or in mice treated with B7-1/B7-2 blocking Abs. In contrast to other studies of murine models of SLE, MRL-lpr/lpr mice treated with B7 blocking Abs exhibit strong anti-small nuclear ribonucleoprotein (snRNP) and anti-DNA autoantibody responses with some changes in isotype switching as compared with untreated animals. All MRL-lpr/lpr mice deficient in B7-1 or B7-2 produce anti-snRNP and anti-DNA titers with isotypes virtually identical with wild-type animals. However, the absence of B7-2 costimulation did interfere with the spontaneous activation and the accumulation of memory CD4+ or CD8+ T lymphocytes characteristic of wild-type MRL-lpr/lpr mice. IgG and C3 complement deposition was less pronounced in the kidneys of B7-2 deficient MRL-lpr/lpr mice, reflecting their lessor degree of glomerulonephritis. By comparison, B7-1-deficient MRL-lpr/lpr mice had more severe IgG and C3 deposits in glomeruli.