Multiple sclerosis lesions are characterized by inflammation, demyelination and a variable degree of axonal loss. The patterns of inflammation in MS lesions are compatible with a T-lymphocyte mediated immune reaction. The formation of demyelinated plaques, however, seem to require additional immunological mechanisms. In this review evidence is discussed for a pathogenetic role of demyelinating antibodies, toxic macrophage products, cytotoxic T-cells as well as metabolic disturbances of oligodendrocytes. It is suggested that the pathological heterogeneity regarding the patterns and extent of demyelination, remyelination and axonal loss may be the outcome of variable dominant immunopathogenetic mechanisms in different multiple sclerosis patients.