Immunization of C57BL / 6 mice with myelin oligodendrocyte glycoprotein (MOG) peptide (p) 35 - 55 induces chronic experimental autoimmune encephalomyelitis (EAE). The role of gamma delta T cells in the regulation of EAE is unclear. We investigated gamma delta T cells in C57BL / 6 wild-type mice and C57BL / mice with a disrupted TCRdelta chain gene (delta(- / -) mice) using MOG p35 - 55. We found significantly less disease in delta(- / -) mice immunized with MOG / complete Freund's adjuvant (mean maximal EAE score 4.3 +/- 0.8 in wild-type vs. 2.3 +/- 0.5 in delta(- / -) mice). Transfer of wild-type spleen cells restored the ability of delta(- / -) mice to develop equally severe EAE as wild-type mice. In addition to IFN-gamma, IL-2, IL-5 and IL-10 was decreased in delta(- / -) mice. Decreased immune responses were also seen in delta(- / -) animals immunized with OVA peptide or protein and in concanavalin A-stimulated splenocytes from delta(- / -) mice. Enriched dendritic cells from delta(- / -) mice secreted significantly less TNF-alpha in response to lipopolysaccharide stimulation. Furthermore, when EAE was induced by adoptive transfer of an anti-MOG p35 - 55 alpha beta T cell line, there was a striking reduction of disease incidence (0 %) and severity in delta(- / -) as compared to wild-type mice (83 % incidence). delta(- / -) mice showed no cellular infiltration in the spinal cord whereas wild-type animals had infiltration of macrophages, B cells, alpha beta- and gamma delta T cells. In adoptive transfer EAE, there was reduced IL-2 and IFN-gamma secretion in delta(- / -) mice. These results demonstrate an impaired immune response in the delta(- / -) mouse that is associated with a defect in developing both actively induced and adoptively transferred EAE.