The immunomodulatory properties of the vitamin D analogue MC 1288 (20-epi-1alpha,25-dihydroxycholecalciferol) were investigated in CIA in rats. The analogue was administered systemically at three different time points; (i) for 10 consecutive days before collagen (CII) immunization; (ii) for 10 consecutive days after CII immunization; or (iii) for 7 consecutive days from disease onset. Treatment initiated either 10 days before CII immunization or at the day of collagen immunization effectively suppressed the development of arthritis. Treatment initiated at the day of the onset of arthritis reduced the severity of joint inflammation. Significantly, doses which did not induce hypercalcaemia decreased the incidence and severity of arthritis. In vivo treatment with the 20-epi analogue of 1alpha,25-dihydroxycholecalciferol diminished the serum levels of antibodies to rat CII. Similarly, mitogen-induced proliferation of lymph node cells from rat CII-immunized animals was reduced. The experiments demonstrate that the vitamin D analogue MC 1288 has the ability to prevent, and furthermore to suppress, already established CIA by its immunomodulatory properties without inducing hypercalcaemia.