The ability to prevent the expression of retinal SAg induced experimental autoimmune uveitis (EAU) in Lewis rats by oral administration of the SAg and SAg fragments was investigated. Oral administration of the SAg molecule prevented or markedly diminished the clinical appearance of SAg-induced disease as measured by ocular inflammation. Furthermore, oral administration of the SAg also markedly diminished uveitis induced by the uveitogenic M and N fragments of the SAg. M and N fragments were not effective in preventing SAg-induced EAU, although feeding the M fragment prevented disease induced by the M fragment. Oral administration of the SAg did not prevent myelin basic protein induced experimental autoimmune encephalomyelitis, whereas feeding myelin basic protein did. In vitro studies demonstrated a significant decrease in proliferative responses to the SAg in lymph node cells draining the site of immunization from fed vs nonfed animals. Furthermore, the addition of splenocytes from SAg-fed animals to cultures of a CD4+ SAg-specific cell line profoundly suppressed the cell line's response to the SAg, whereas these splenocytes had no effect on a purified protein derivative-specific cell line. The Ag-specific in vitro suppression was blocked by anti-CD8 antibody (OX-8) demonstrating that this suppression is dependent on CD8+ T-cells. These experiments demonstrate that Ag-specific immunomanipulation can be achieved in the EAU model by oral administration of the SAg and raise the possibility that such an approach may have practical clinical implications in uveitis as well as other human autoimmune diseases.

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