Regulatory changes in cytokine permeation across the blood-brain barrier (BBB) may have crucial roles in central nervous system (CNS) autoimmune disease. Accordingly, we examined the interactions of interleukin (IL)-15 with the cerebral vasculature after induction of experimental autoimmune encephalomyelitis (EAE). In contrast to the influx of (125)I-IL15 from blood to the CNS in normal mice and the persistence of IL15 influx in the spinal cord of EAE mice, influx was reduced in the EAE brain. Analyses of disappearance kinetics, FITC (fluorescein isothiocyanate)-albumin space, and delivery of IL15 by in situ perfusion, all indicate that the changes were not caused by BBB disruption but by the rapid availability (high volume of distribution) of IL15 and albumin. Although there was no significant change in the BBB permeation of IL15 in either direction in EAE mice, there was an upregulation of its specific receptor, IL15Ralpha, and an increased in situ production of IL15 mRNA that showed regional variation in both basal and EAE states. Overall, for IL15, its increased cerebral vascular space in the brain was equally as important as its persistent influx across the blood-spinal cord barrier, indicating that it is fully capable of activating the upregulated IL15Ralpha in the brain along with the intrinsic CNS source of IL15 in EAE mice.