The oral administration of neuroantigens can suppress as well as treat autoimmune disease. Using EAE as a model system, we examined the antigen-presenting cell in oral tolerance. Expansion of dendritic cells (DCs) prior to or after disease is established facilitated oral tolerance. Transfer of oral antigen-loaded DCs resulted in protection from EAE by induction of IL-4 and IL-5 in recipient animals. LPS treatment of donors abrogated the ability of DCs to transfer protection from EAE, emphasizing the importance of the DC activation state. T cells exposed to orally administered antigen were monitored in TCR transgenic mice and found to undergo activation followed by deletion. The thymus plays a critical role in oral tolerance since thymectomized mice could not be tolerized. The thymus is postulated to be a site for deletion of autoreactive T cells or a site for generation of regulatory T cells.