Viral infections have been associated with the initiation and exacerbations often observed with autoimmune disease. Mechanisms by which viruses may play a role in the development of autoreactive immune responses include polyclonal activation of B and T cells, molecular mimicry, viral infection of immune cells, exposure of sequestered antigens, or altered host cell expression (neoantigen or altered self) in virus infected host cells. We have been studying the immune response generated to self proteins in association with viral infection. Here we evaluate the effects of viral infection on the development of an autoimmune disease of the central nervous system, experimental allergic encephalomyelitis. A vaccinia virus construct, VVplp was made containing the coding region for rat myelin proteolipid protein (PLP). Cells infected with VVplp were found to express PLP protein in vitro. Central nervous system disease was not detectable in mice vaccinated with VVplp. However, mice vaccinated with VVplp and later challenged with encephalitogenic peptides derived from PLP were found to have enhanced disease with earlier onset of symptoms when compared to mice treated with a control vaccinia virus construct. This enhancement of disease was found to peak at 10 days post challenge with the encephalitogenic PLP peptide. Clinical disease and an inflammatory response in the central nervous system was evident in mice previously vaccinated with VVplp but not in control vaccinated mice at this time. These results indicate that prior infection with a virus capable of coding for self protein can predispose the host to an accentuated autoimmune response.