To investigate the role of anti-myelin antibodies in chronic relapsing experimental allergic encephalomyelitis (CR-EAE), sera from SJL/J mice with CR-EAE actively induced by inoculation with spinal cord homogenate in complete Freund's adjuvant (CFA) were compared with sera from mice to whom CR-EAE was passively transferred by lymph node cells (LNC) stimulated with myelin basic protein (BP). Sera were obtained serially from mice during both remissions and relapses of disease and were evaluated for the presence of anti-myelin antibodies using an avidin-biotin-immunoperoxidase technique. Four of six mice with CR-EAE induced with cord-CFA were positive for anti-myelin antibodies 15-124 days after inoculation, with 16 of 18 sera positive in these four mice. Two mice inoculated with cord-CFA did not have detectable serum anti-myelin antibodies, despite a clinical and histopathological picture indistinguishable from the antibody-positive mice. None of seven mice with CR-EAE passively transferred by BP-stimulated LNC had detectable anti-myelin antibodies in 30 sera obtained 7-141 days after cell transfer. We conclude that serum anti-myelin antibodies probably do not play a significant role in the pathogenesis of CR-EAE in SJL/J mice.