Hartley guinea pig CNS myelin lipids (TL) were combined with an encephalitogenic dose (50 micrograms) of myelin basic protein (MBP) and injected together with complete Freund's adjuvant (CFA) into juvenile strain 13 guinea pigs. All the animals developed acute EAE and recovered, but only 50% had a single mild relapse during an observation period of 12 months. To determine the effect of individual myelin lipids on EAE, purified fractions comprising the galactocerebrosides (GC) or gangliosides (GANG) were combined with 50 micrograms MBP together with phosphatidyl choline (PC) and cholesterol (CHOL) and injected with CFA into juvenile Hartley guinea pigs. Control animals received MBP mixed with PC and CHOL or MBP alone, in CFA. The incidence of acute EAE was similar in all groups, but the highest percent recovery (69%) was seen in animals immunized with the MBP-GC combination. All animals that developed acute EAE in the control groups died. Histologically, CNS myelin breakdown was present during the acute attack except in the MBP control group. Parameters of cell-mediated immunity (CMI) showed good correlation with the clinicopathological findings in animals that received MBP-GC or MBP alone. In most animals, serum anti-MBP antibodies were detected as early as 10 days post-immunization (p.i.) whereas anti-lipid antibodies were found at 90 days p.i. Animals that received MBP-PC did not show any positive CMI or serum antibodies although they developed severe disease. The results indicate that myelin lipids, especially the galactocerebrosides, contribute to the development of chronic EAE; however, the mechanism by which this occurs is still obscure.