Lewis rats sensitized with guinea-pig spinal cord in Freund's complete adjuvant developed an acute-phase protein response. This was characterized by a marked increase in plasma alpha 2-macroglobulin (alpha 2 M) levels which, however, declined towards normal values before the onset of clinical signs of experimental allergic encephalomyelitis (EAE). In contrast, levels of two other acute-phase proteins, fibrinogen and caeruloplasmin, remained variably elevated over the entire study period. Recovery from EAE coincided with an increase in alpha 2 M levels. Infusion of purified alpha 2 M effectively protected the rats against clinical EAE and this was associated with a restimulation of the acute-phase response. The protected rats were shown to be sensitized to myelin basic protein and to have comparable mononuclear infiltration of the central nervous system with the diseased animals. It is postulated that the infusion of alpha 2 M leads to the inhibition of the effector pathways of the delayed type hypersensitivity response.