The central nervous system (CNS) is considered to be an immunological privileged site. However, inflammatory reactions in response to virus infections, in multiple sclerosis (MS) and in experimental autoimmune encephalomyelitis (EAEl suggest that there are definite connections between the CNS and the immune system. In this review, we examine evidence for afferent and efferent pathways of communication between the CNS and the immune system, the pivotal role of regional lymph nodes in T-cell mediated autoimmune disease of the CNS, and the factors involved in lymphocyte targeting of the CNS. Afferent pathways of lymphatic drainage of the brain are well established in a variety of species, especially rodents. Fluid and antigens appear to drain along perivascular spaces populated by immunocompetent perivascular cells. Drainage pathways connect directly via the cribriform plate to nasal lymphatics and cervical lymph nodes. Soluble antigens draining from the brain induce antibody production in the cervical lymph nodes. Using a model of cryolesion-enhanced EAE, we review the role of lymphatic drainage and cervical lymph nodes in the enhancement of cerebral EAE. If a brain wound in the form of a cryolesion is produced 8 days post inoculation (dpi) of antigen in the induction of acute EAE, there is a 6-fold increase in severity of cerebral EAE by 15 dpi. Removal of the cervical lymph nodes significantly reduces such enhancement of EAE. These findings suggest that drainage of antigens from the brain to the cervical lymph nodes, in the presence of activated lymphocytes in the meninges or CNS, resuIts in an enhanced second wave of lymphocytes targeting the brain. In examining the efferent immune pathway by which lymphocytes home to the CNS, several studies have characterized the phenotype of infiltrating T lymphocytes by the use of immunocy-tochemistry or FACS analysis. T-cells infiltrating the CNS are recently activated/memory lymphocytes typified by their high expression of CD44, LFA-1 and ICAM-1 and low expression of CD45RB in the mouse. Following the induction of EAE in susceptible mice, ICAM-1 and VCAM-1 are dramatically upregulated on CNS vessels; lymphocytes bind to such vessels via the interaction of their known ligands, LFA-1/Mac-1 and 1times4-integrins, at least in vitro. It appears that 1times4-integrin plays a key role in lymphocyte recruitment across the blood-brain barrier and may be a major factor in lymphocyte targeting of the CNS. Definition of factors involved in the afferent and efferent connections between the CNS and the immune system may clarify mechanisms involved in immune privilege of the CNS and may open significant therapeutic opportunities for multiple sclerosis.