Experimental melanin-induced uveitis (EMIU) is a rodent model of acute anterior uveitis which was described in 1993. We investigated strain susceptibility, and age and gender characteristics of the model, undertook histological and immunohistochemical studies to investigate underlying cellular mechanisms, and examined several treatment options. Rats were immunized with bovine ocular melanin (250 microg), and disease was followed by slit lamp examination. Lewis, Fischer 344 and Porton rats were found to be susceptible to EMIU, whereas Wistar-Furth, DA, and Hooded Wistar strains were resistant. EMIU was neither age- nor gender-dependent. In Fischer 344 rats, EMIU was characterized clinically by florid anterior segment inflammation. Histopathological findings included infiltration of ciliary body and iris with mononuclear cells and neutrophils. Both CD4+ and CD8+ T lymphocytes were prominent. Rats were then treated with intraperitoneal injections of anti-CD4, anti-CD8 or irrelevant isotype-matched MoAb on days -3, 0, 3, 6 and 9 with respect to melanin immunization. Incidence of uveitis was significantly reduced in rats treated with a non-depleting cocktail of anti-CD4 MoAbs (P = 0.007), whereas a depleting anti-CD8 antibody had no effect on the disease. Mannose-6-phosphate inhibits lymphocyte migration in some models of T cell-mediated inflammation. This simple sugar was administered to additional rats via intraperitoneal osmotic pumps for 14 days following disease induction, but did not influence the uveitis. We conclude that EMIU is controlled by CD4+ T cells, and disease may be abrogated by treatment with anti-CD4 MoAbs.