Exposure to the hydrocarbon oil pristane induces lupus specific autoantibodies in non-autoimmune mice. We investigated whether the capacity to induce lupus-like autoimmunity is a unique property of pristane or is shared by other adjuvant oils. Seven groups of 3-month-old female BALB/cJ mice received a single intraperitoneal injection of pristane, squalene (used in the adjuvant MF59), incomplete Freund's adjuvant (IFA), three different medicinal mineral oils, or saline, respectively. Serum autoantibodies and peritoneal cytokine production were measured. In addition to pristane, the mineral oil Bayol F (IFA) and the endogenous hydrocarbon squalene both induced anti-nRNP/Sm and -Su autoantibodies (20% and 25% of mice, respectively). All of these hydrocarbons had prolonged effects on cytokine production by peritoneal APCs. However, high levels of IL-6, IL-12, and TNF?? production 2-3 months after intraperitoneal injection appeared to be associated with the ability to induce lupus autoantibodies. The ability to induce lupus autoantibodies is shared by several hydrocarbons and is not unique to pristane. It correlates with stimulation of the production of IL-12 and other cytokines, suggesting a relationship with a hydrocarbon's adjuvanticity. The potential to induce autoimmunity may complicate the use of oil adjuvants in human and veterinary vaccines. ?? 2003 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.