We studied the immunological basis for the very potent encephalitogenicity of myelin/oligodendrocyte glycoprotein (MOG), a minor component of myelin in the CNS that is widely used to induce experimental autoimmune encephalomyelitis (EAE). For this purpose, we generated a mutant mouse lacking a functional mog gene. This MOG-deficient mouse presents no clinical or histological abnormalities, permitting us to directly assess the role of MOG as a target autoantigen in EAE. In contrast to WT mice, which developed severe EAE following immunization with whole myelin, MOG-deficient mice had a mild phenotype, demonstrating that the anti-MOG response is a major pathogenic component of the autoimmune response directed against myelin. Moreover, while MOG transcripts are expressed in lymphoid organs in minute amounts, both MOG-deficient and WT mice show similar T and B cell responses against the extracellular domain of MOG, including the immunodominant MOG 35-55 T cell epitope. Furthermore, no differences in the fine specificity of the T cell responses to overlapping peptides covering the complete mouse MOG sequence were observed between MOG+/+ and MOG-/- mice. In addition, upon adoptive transfer, MOG-specific T cells from WT mice and those from MOG-deficient mice are equally pathogenic. This total lack of immune tolerance to MOG in WT C57BL/6 mice may be responsible for the high pathogenicity of the anti-MOG immune response as well as the high susceptibility of most animal strains to MOG-induced EAE.