The in vitro activity of gelatinase B, an enzyme whose appearance in the cerebrospinal fluid is associated with inflammatory diseases of the central nervous system, was dose-dependently inhibited by the antirheumatic D-penicillamine. Inhibition of gelatinase B in electrophoretically pure preparations and in cell culture supernatants and human body fluids was obtained at dosages reached in the circulation of patients treated with a peroral dosis of 750 mg D-penicillamine per day. In mice, developing acute demyelination, D-penicillamine significantly reduced the mortality and morbidity rates of experimental allergic encephalomyelitis (EAE). In chronic relapsing EAE in Biozzi AB/H mice, an animal model for relapses in multiple sclerosis (MS), it attenuated the exacerbations, even when the treatment was started after the primary full-blown disease had developed. We infer protease inhibition as the mechanism of action of D-penicillamine and suggest that its use may be effective as peroral treatment for MS.