The pathogenesis of T cell-mediated diseases like rheumatoid arthritis (RA) has typically been explained in the context of the Th1-Th2 paradigm: the initiation/propagation by pro-inflammatory cytokines, and downregulation by Th2 cytokines. However, in our study based on the adjuvant-induced arthritis (AA) model of RA, we observed that Lewis (LEW) (RT.1(l)) rats at the recovery phase of AA showed the highest level of IFN-gamma in recall response to mycobacterial heat-shock protein 65 (Bhsp65), whereas AA-resistant Wistar-Kyoto (WKY) (RT.1(l)) rats secreted high levels of IFN-gamma much earlier following disease induction. However, no significant secretion of IL-10 or TGF-beta was observed in either strain. Furthermore, pre-treatment of LEW rats with a peptide of self (rat) hsp65 (R465), which induced T cells secreting predominantly IFN-gamma, afforded protection against AA and decreased IL-17 expression by the arthritogenic epitope-restimulated T cells. These results provide a novel perspective on the pathogenesis of autoimmune arthritis.