Bovine retinal extract (RE) is a heterologous mixture of highly uveitogenic proteins including S-Antigen (S-Ag), interphotoreceptor retinol binding protein (IRBP) and rhodopsin, and is a potent inducer of experimental autoimmune uveoretinitis (EAU). Intranasal inoculation of Lewis rats with RE performed daily for 10 days prior to immunization with RE suppresses both the severity and the incidence of the clinical response and histopathological changes in EAU. Significant suppression of the disease in treated animals could be achieved with a total (cumulative) intranasal inoculum of 42 micrograms of antigen. Animals which were treated with extract exhibited a normal total antibody response to S-Ag, IRBP and retinal extract when compared with controls [phosphate-buffered saline (PBS) treated] animals. The antibody response in tolerized animals was predominantly anti-S-Ag IgG2a with suppression of anti-S-Ag IgM response. Treated animals had a significantly suppressed delayed-type hypersensitivity (DTH) response to retinal extract but normal response to purified protein derivative (PPD) compared to control animals. Adoptive transfer of splenocytes from treated animals also demonstrated some protection against RE-induced EAU. These results demonstrate that tolerance induction impairs the onset and severity of EAU by inhibiting the DTH response to heterologous mixture of retinal antigens.