We constructed a transgenic mouse model that mimics the human autoimmune disease multiple sclerosis in its spontaneous induction and pathology. Transgenic mice were constructed expressing genes encoding a rearranged T cell receptor specific for myelin basic protein (MBP). T cell tolerance was not induced in the periphery, and functional, autoreactive T cells were found in the spleen and lymph nodes of these mice. Transgenic mice developed experimental allergic encephalomyelitis (EAE) following immunization with MBP and adjuvant plus pertussis toxin as well as with administration of pertussis toxin alone. Spontaneous EAE can develop in transgenic mice housed in a non-sterile facility but not in those maintained in a sterile, specific pathogen-free facility. This model system affords a unique opportunity to dissect the genetic and environmental variables that may contribute to the development of spontaneous autoimmune disease.