Sclerosing keratitis is the major cause of blindness due to onchocerciasis caused by the parasite Onchocerca volvulus. Although the importance of T cells in the pathogenesis of onchocerciasis has been suggested, their precise role in onchocercal sclerosing keratitis has not yet been defined. Using immunohistological techniques and a murine model of onchocercal sclerosing keratitis, we have performed a temporal analysis of the inflammatory T cells infiltrating into the cornea at days 4, 7, and 21 following intrastromal challenge with soluble O. volvulus antigens into presensitized mice. The maximum number of CD3+ T cells were observed in the corneal stroma at day 21 when sclerosing keratitis was most severe. The majority (>85%) of the CD3+ T cells were CD4+ at all time points. A few infiltrating cells bore IL-2 receptors indicating possible activation of a small fraction of the T cells. These results suggest that CD4+ T cells play an important role in onchocercal sclerosing keratitis. © 1994 Academic Press Inc.