Expression of class II major histocompatibility complex (MHC) molecules by non-immune cells (e.g., parenchymal cells) leads to the presentation of self-antigens, and may have a role in the pathogenesis of many diseases mediated by autoimmunity. Such diseases, characterized by demyelination of the central nervous system and expression of class II MHC molecules on neural cells, include multiple sclerosis, experimental allergic encephalitis and Theiler's murine encephalomyelitis virus infection. Canine distemper encephalitis probably does not have an autoimmune character, but it shares many similarities with the aforementioned diseases. For this reason, the expression of class II MHC molecules in the brains of dogs with canine distemper encephalitis was investigated immunohistochemically. The results presented here demonstrate that canine microglia and astrocytes 'upregulate' class II MHC expression in cases of encephalitis associated with chronic canine distemper.