In addition to the commonly reported ocular signs, Chlamydia psittaci infection of kittens resulted in fever, lethargy, lameness and reduction in weight gain following ocular instillation of virulent organisms. The appearance of these systemic signs was late with respect to the appearance of ocular symptoms and occurred simultaneously with increasing levels of chlamydia-specific IgG. Measurement of acute phase reactants and IL-6 in plasma indicated that both became elevated concurrent with or slightly after the appearance of fever and remained elevated after the fever began to resolve. Preliminary data also indicated that infectious C. psittaci was present in the blood stream during this time period. The results of ocular instillation of three different levels of C. psittaci (10(3.8), 10(2.8) and 10(1.5) TCID50) indicated that the frequency of infection and the severity of ocular signs were diminished in the group receiving the lowest dose. However, the magnitude of systemic disease was similar in all animals which exhibited clinical signs, irrespective of the dose administered. The immune response to infection included elementary body (EB)-specific lymphocyte proliferation as well as the development of EB-specific IgG and IgM antibodies. The predominant antibody response was to a 45 kDa protein, the major outer membrane protein (MOMP), lipopolysaccharide (LPS), a 58 kDa doublet and 32 and 16-19 kDa proteins.