In chronic (relapsing) inflammatory polyneuropathy (CRIP), successful treatment with plasma exchange has led to the concept of pathogenic humoral factors. In 6 patients with CRIP, 5 of whom improved after plasma exchange, the potential pathogenic role of circulating immunoglobulin (Ig) fractions was tested by applying the systemic passive transfer model to marmoset monkeys. After continuous treatment with intramuscular injections for 2-8 weeks, monkeys injected with the crude immunoglobulin fractions or with purified IgG from 5 of the 6 patients showed a significant and partially reversible reduction of the motor nerve conduction velocity (mean 34%, P less than 0.001) when compared with pre-treatment values. In control animals the reduction was 4%. Morphological examination revealed only minor ultrastructural changes of the myelin sheath. Immunocytochemistry revealed that human IgG was able to cross the blood-nerve barrier. It is concluded that the circulating IgG-fraction of patients with CRIP contains a factor that may contribute to the disordered nerve function after crossing the blood-nerve barrier. It may be the removal of this particular factor which is responsible for the rapid recovery of nerve conduction in patients after plasma exchange.