Experimental autoimmune encephalomyelitis (EAE) is an animal model of multiple sclerosis. Immunization of B10.PL mice with the Ac1-9 peptide, the immunodominant determinant of myelin basic protein (MBP), produced a single episode of EAE followed by recovery and resistance to reinduction of disease. Using the CDR3 length spectratyping technique, we characterized the clonal composition of the Ac1-9-specific T cell repertoire from induction through onset and resolution of disease. Two clonally restricted subsets within a heterogeneous self-reactive repertoire were found in mouse lymph nodes, spleen, and spinal cord soon after immunization, before any sign of EAE. These clonotypes, designated BV8S2/BJ2S7 and BV16/BJ2S5, were present in all mice examined and thus considered public. BV8S2/BJ2S7 was found in far greater excess; was exclusively Th1 polarized; disappeared from the spinal cord, spleen, and lymph nodes concomitantly with recovery; and transferred disease to naive recipients. In contrast, BV16/BJ2S5 and numerous private clonotypes were either Th1 or Th2 and persisted following recovery. These results are consistent with the hypothesis that the public clonotype BV8S2/BJ2S7 is a driver of disease and necessary for its propagation.