Experimental autoimmune uveoretinitis (EAU) in animals is a T cell-mediated autoimmune response directed against cells of the neural retina, in particular the photoreceptors. EAU can be induced in susceptible strains of mice by immunization with purified retinal Ag, and serves as a model for human uveitis. Because strong HLA associations have been noted in a number of human uveitic diseases, we investigated the role of MHC vs non-MHC genes in the control of susceptibility to ocular autoimmunity using the mouse EAU model. Selected strains representing most of the known independent H-2 haplotypes, as well as several H-2-recombinant and congenic strains, were immunized with interphotoreceptor retinoid-binding protein. Ocular pathology was induced in strains of the H-2k haplotype and their I-A-matched congenics, as well as in strains of the H-2r, H-2b, and H-2d haplotypes. In a series of experiments utilizing intra-H-2 recombinant strains, MHC control of susceptibility was tentatively mapped to the I-A subregion of the H-2k. Expression of the I-Ek gene product was not required for susceptibility to EAU, and in fact appeared to have an ameliorating effect on disease. Incidence and severity of disease obtained in strains sharing the same H-2 on a different background, or sharing the same background in the context of a different H-2, indicated that non-MHC genes contribute significantly to the regulation of EAU. Disease expression of susceptible H-2 haplotypes was highest in strains with B10 background (permissive) and ranged from intermediate to absent in strains with other (nonpermissive) backgrounds. The data suggest that although the ability to develop ocular pathology is dependent on the I-A subregion of the H-2, the final expression of disease in susceptible haplotypes is largely determined by background, non-MHC genes.