MRL/MpJ-Fas(lpr) (MRL-Fas(lpr)) mice develop a spontaneous T cell and macrophage-dependent autoimmune disease that shares features with human lupus. Interactions via the programmed death 1/programmed death ligand 1 (PD-1/PD-L1) pathway down-regulate immune responses and provide a negative regulatory checkpoint in mediating tolerance and autoimmune disease. Therefore, we tested the hypothesis that the PD-1/PD-L1 pathway suppresses lupus nephritis and the systemic illness in MRL-Fas(lpr) mice. For this purpose, we compared kidney and systemic illness (lymph nodes, spleen, skin, lung, glands) in PD-L1 null (-/-) and PD-L1 intact (wild type, WT) MRL-Fas(lpr) mice. Unexpectedly, PD-L1(-/-);MRL-Fas(lpr) mice died as a result of autoimmune myocarditis and pneumonitis before developing renal disease or the systemic illness. Dense infiltrates, consisting of macrophage and T cells (CD8(+) > CD4(+)), were prominent throughout the heart (atria and ventricles) and localized specifically around vessels in the lung. In addition, once disease was evident, we detected heart specific autoantibodies in PD-L1(-/-);MRL-Fas(lpr) mice. This unique phenotype is dependent on MRL-specific background genes as PD-L1(-/-);MRL(+/+) mice lacking the Fas(lpr) mutation developed autoimmune myocarditis and pneumonitis. Notably, the transfer of PD-L1(-/-);MRL(+/+) bone marrow cells induced myocarditis and pneumonitis in WT;MRL(+/+) mice, despite a dramatic up-regulation of PD-L1 expression on endothelial cells in the heart and lung of WT;MRL(+/+) mice. Taken together, we suggest that PD-L1 expression is central to autoimmune heart and lung disease in lupus-susceptible (MRL) mice.