Peptide analogues of disease-associated epitopes were studied for inhibition of experimental allergic encephalomyelitis (EAE) and adjuvant arthritis (AA) in Lewis rats. EAE- and AA-associated analogues were selected as competitors because of their in vitro inhibitory activity on proliferation of encephalitogenic and arthritogenic T cells. Although the EAE-associated competitor had a superior major histocompatibility complex (MHC) binding affinity, the AA-associated competitor was a better inhibitor of the in vitro proliferation of arthritogenic T cells. Furthermore, although in vivo EAE was inhibited by both competitors, AA was only inhibited by the AA-associated competitor. Remarkably, in contrast to what was expected of a regular MHC competitor peptide, the AA-associated peptide analogue also prevented AA upon immunization before disease induction and appeared to induce T cell responses that crossreacted with the original disease-associated epitope. Therefore, it is concluded that antigen-specific regulatory mechanisms were involved in synergy with MHC competition. The integration of both qualities into a single "competitor-modulator" analogue peptide may lead to the development of novel, more effective, disease-specific immunomodulatory peptides.