A predominant response to myelin oligodendrocyte glycoprotein (MOG) was recently observed in patients with multiple sclerosis (MS). To study the possible pathogenic role of T cell response to MOG in MS, we have investigated the encephalitogenic potential of MOG. Synthetic MOG peptides, pMOG 1-21, 35-55, 67-87, 104-117 and 202-218, representing predicted T cell epitopes, were injected into C57BL/6J and C3H.SW (H-2b) mice. The mice developed significant specific T cell responses to pMOG 1-21, pMOG 35-55 and pMOG 104-117. However, pMOG 35-55 was the only MOG peptide which could induce neurological impairment. The highly reproducible disease was chronic, with ascending paralysis and neuropathology comparable with those observed in experimental autoimmune encephalomyelitis (EAE) induced by myelin basic protein or proteolipid protein, except that in H-2b mice the disease was consistently non-remitting. These features differ markedly from those which we recently observed in PL (H-2u) mice with pMOG 35-55-induced disease. In PL mice, pMOG 35-55-induces atypical chronic relapsing EAE, the expression and progression of which are unpredictable. Hence, in different mouse strains, the same MOG peptide can induce typical EAE characterized by ascending paralysis, or atypical EAE with unpredictable clinical signs. pMOG 35-55-specific T cells from H-2b mice recognized an epitope within amino acids 40-55 of the MOG molecule, and pMOG 40-55-reactive T cell lines were encephalitogenic upon transfer into syngeneic recipients. The encephalitogenic pMOG 35-55-reactive C57BL/6J T cell lines expressed V beta 1, V beta 6, V beta 8, V beta 14 and V beta 15 gene segments, and the pMOG 35-55-reactive C3H.SW T cell lines expressed V beta 1, V beta 2, V beta 6, V beta 8, V beta 10, V beta 14, and V beta 15 gene segments. However, in both mouse strains, the utilization of the V beta 8 gene product was predominant (40-43%). The highly reproducible encephalitogenic activity of pMOG 35-55 strongly suggests a pathogenic role for T cell reactivity to MOG in MS and supports the possibility that MOG may also be a primary target antigen in the disease.