Nasal administration of microg doses of acetylcholine receptor (AChR) is effective in preventing the development of B cell-mediated EAMG in the Lewis rat, a model for human MG. In order to investigate whether nasal administration of AChR modulates ongoing EAMG, Lewis rats were treated nasally with AChR 2 weeks after immunization with AChR and Freund's complete adjuvant. Ten-fold higher amounts of AChR given nasally (600 microg/rat) were required to ameliorate the manifestations of EAMG compared with the amounts necessary for prevention of EAMG. In lymph node cells from rats receiving 600 microg/rat of AChR, AChR-induced proliferation and interferon-gamma (IFN-gamma) secretion were reduced compared with control EAMG rats receiving PBS only. The anti-AChR antibodies in rats treated nasally with 600 microg/rat of AChR had lower affinity, reduced proportion of IgG2b and reduced capacity to induce AChR degradation. Numbers of AChR-reactive IFN-gamma and tumour necrosis factor-alpha (TNF-alpha) mRNA-expressing lymph node cells from rats treated nasally with 600 microg/rat of AChR were suppressed, while IL-4, IL-10 and transforming growth factor-beta (TGF-beta) mRNA-expressing cells were not affected. Collectively, these data indicate that nasal administration of AChR in ongoing EAMG induced selective suppression of Th1 functions, i.e. IFN-gamma and IgG2b production, but no influence on Th2 cell functions. The impaired Th1 functions may result in the production of less myasthenic anti-AChR antibodies and contribute to the amelioration of EAMG severity in rats treated with AChR 600 microg/rat by the nasal route.