Mycoplasma pulmonis produces a mitogen which may play a role in the pathogenesis of murine respiratory mycoplasmosis in rats. Since LEW rats are more susceptible to this disease than F344 rats are, these 2 strains were used to examine a possible association between disease severity and the level of nonspecific lymphocyte stimulation by mitogens, including M. pulmonis membrane preparations. F344 and LEW spleen, lung, blood, and lymph node lymphocytes were exposed to various mitogens. LEW lymphocytes gave a significantly higher response to mitogenic stimulation, regardless of their anatomical source. These differences in lymphocyte responsiveness were primarily due to differences within the nonadherent cell population. Significantly higher numbers of W3/25+ (T helper) cells were found in LEW lymphoid populations, whereas no difference was found in MRC OX-8+ (T suppressor/cytotoxic) cells. These data suggest an association between disease severity and host responsiveness to nonspecific stimuli.