Sensitization of mice with 1 mg of bovine serum albumin (BSA) or chicken egg albumin (EA) given intraperitoneally and 300 to 400 ng of pertussigen (pertussis toxin [Ptx]) given intravenously (i.v.) induced a high degree of anaphylactic sensitivity when the mice were challenged i.v. with 1 mg of antigen 14 days later. Regardless of H-2 haplotype, all of the strains tested (CFW, BALB/cJ, DBA/2J, and C3H.SW/SnJ) were susceptible to anaphylaxis. Sensitization of mice by a multiple-dose procedure that has been reported to induce fatal encephalopathy in mice (L. Steinman, A. Weiss, N. Adelman, M. Lim, R. Zuniga, J. Oehlert, E. Hewlett, and S. Falkow, Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. USA 82, 8733-8736, 1982) (1 mg of BSA on day -1, 100 to 400 ng of Ptx on day zero 1 mg of BSA on day +1, 100 to 400 ng of Ptx on day +2, and 1 mg of BSA on day +6) induced shock in BALB/cJ, DBA/2J, and C3H.SW/SnJ mice, but not in CFW mice. When EA was used instead of BSA, CFW, BALB/cJ, and C3H.SW/SnJ mice did not develop fatal shock, whereas DBA/2J mice did. When dose 3 of antigen (BSA or EA) was postponed to day +21, all mouse strains sensitized by the multiple-dose procedure were found to be susceptible to shock. The fatal shock induced by this procedure, as well as that induced by giving a single sensitizing dose of antigen and Ptx, could be prevented by one to three 1-ml doses of saline given i.v. at the time signs of severe shock appeared. Although only one dose of saline was often sufficient to save the mice, two or three doses were usually needed. Microscopic changes were not found in midsagittal sections of the brains of mice sensitized by either procedure. This was true of mice that died from shock or were saved from shock by injections of saline. From these results, we concluded that the proposed model for encephalopathy induced in mice by Ptx and BSA demonstrates only the well-known anaphylactogenic effect of Ptx or pertussis vaccine. Since there are many other more sensitive methods to detect Ptx, induction of anaphylaxis is not of much value for detection or quantitation of Ptx in pertussis vaccine.