Previous studies have showed that immunization with peptides from Ro 60 results in Sjogren's syndrome (SS)-like condition in BALB/c mice. We hypothesized that oral feeding with Ro 60 peptide or Ro 60 would prevent the disease. Four groups (each consisting of 10) of BALB/c mice were used. Group I-III were immunized with Ro 274 peptide. Group IV mice were administered adjuvant only. Group II mice were fed orally with Ro 274 peptide and Group III with Ro 60 for 5 days before immunization. There was a significant reduction in the binding of sera from both Group II and Group III mice to most of the Ro multiple antigenic peptides bound by Group I mice. In Group III mice, salivary flow was maintained above that of the Group I mice (average: 117.5 versus 58.6 microl; t = 2.7; P = 0.02). Salivary infiltrates were drastically decreased in the Ro peptide or Ro 60-fed groups, compared to non-tolerized group. Two of eight mice in Group II and 3/6 mice in Group III had no infiltrates, whereas all eight mice studied in Group I had a significant number of infiltrates. Thus, epitope spreading was prevented, lymphocytic infiltration was blocked and saliva flow was restored by means of oral feeding of either Ro 274 or Ro 60 in this animal model of SS.