Immunization of susceptible strains of mice with type II collagen (CII) elicits an autoimmune arthritis known as collagen-induced arthritis (CIA). One analogue peptide of the immunodominant T cell determinant, A9 (CII245-270 (I260—>A, A261—>B, F263—>N)), was previously shown to induce a profound suppression of CIA when coadministered at the time of immunization with CII. In the present study, A9 peptide was administered i.p., orally, intranasally, or i.v. 2 to 4 wk following CII immunization. We found that arthritis was significantly suppressed even when A9 was administered after disease was induced. To determine the mechanism of action of A9, cytokine responses to A9 and wild-type peptide A2 by CII-sensitized spleen cells were compared. An increase in IL-4 and IL-10, but not in IFN-gamma, was found in A9 culture supernatants. Additionally, cells obtained from A9-immunized mice produced higher amounts of IL-4 and IL-10 when cultured with CII compared with cells obtained from mice immunized with A2, which produced predominantly IFN-gamma. Suppression of arthritis could be transferred to naive mice using A9-immune splenocytes. Lastly, phosphorylation of TCRzeta was not altered in the immunoprecipitates from the lysates of cells exposed to analogue peptides (A9 and A10) together with wild-type A2 in a T cell line and two I-Aq-restricted, CII-specific T hybridomas. We conclude that analogue peptide A9 is effective in suppressing established CIA by inducing T cells to produce a Th2 cytokine pattern in response to CII.