Systemic lupus erythematosus is a systemic autoimmune disease characterized by inflammation in organs such as kidneys and presence of autoantibodies against nuclear antigens. We have previously shown that CD1d deficiency in BALB/c mice exacerbates lupus nephritis and autoantibody production induced by the hydrocarbon oil pristane. Here, we have tested the impact of activating CD1d-restricted natural killer T (NKT) cells on pristane-induced lupus-like autoimmunity in BALB/c and SJL mice. Repeated in vivo treatment of pristane-injected BALB/c mice with the NKT cell ligand alpha-galactosylceramide (alpha-GalCer) prior to the onset of florid disease suppressed proteinuria, in a manner that was dependent on CD1d and IL-4 expression. In sharp contrast, however, similar treatment of pristane-injected SJL mice with alpha-GalCer resulted in increased proteinuria. Consistent with these dichotomous effects of NKT cell activation on the development of lupus-like autoimmunity, NKT cells in BALB/c and SJL/J mice exhibited a mixed Th1/Th2 and a Th1-biased cytokine production profile, respectively. These findings demonstrate that NKT cell activation with alpha-GalCer suppresses or promotes pristane-induced lupus-like autoimmunity in mice, in a strain-dependent manner.