Proteolipid protein (PLP) is a major component of the central nervous system (CNS) myelin membrane and has been shown to induce acute experimental autoimmune encephalomyelitis (EAE) in genetically susceptible animals. Here we describe conditions by which a relapsing-remitting form of EAE can be reliably induced in SJL/J mice either actively immunized with the major encephalitogenic PLP peptide, PLP13-151(S), or following adoptive transfer of PLP139-151(S)-specific T cells. The disease follows a reliable relapsing-remitting course with acute clinical signs first appearing 6-20 days after priming or transfer and relapses first appearing at 30-45 days. The initial onset of disease correlates with delayed-type hypersensitivity (DTH) reactivity specific for PLP139-151(S), in the apparent absence of T cell reactivity to the major myelin basic protein (MBP) peptide. Histologically, both the active and adoptive forms of the disease are characterized by extensive mononuclear cell infiltration and severe demyelination of the CNS. These results suggest that T cell responses specific for PLP139-151(S) are sufficient to induce clinical and histological R-EAE in SJL/J mice. This model should prove useful for examination of the cellular and molecular events involved in clinical relapses and perhaps in determining the role of PLP-specific T cell responses in multiple sclerosis (MS).