We examined the effect of gallium (Ga) nitrate on the development of the development of experimental autoimmune encephalomyelitis (EAE). Weekly subcutaneous injections of 10-30 mg/kg prevented clinical signs as well as histopathological changes of EAE. The optimal timing of a single injection of Ga was 6 days after induction of EAE, with amelioration also apparent following a single injection on day 3 or 9 but not day 12. Ga administered in vivo suppressed myelin basic protein (MBP) and purified protein derivative-specific lymphocyte proliferative responses in vitro. Addition of Ga to MBP-specific T lymphocyte line cultures at various times after initiation of culture revealed that Ga exerts an effect at an early stage of cellular activation.