We report the creation and characterization of several transgenic mouse lines that carry genes coding for the Ak alpha or Ak beta MHC class II (or Ia) molecules. In all these lines, the transgenes are expressed at the RNA and protein level with correct tissue and cell type specificity. Crosses between certain of them yield progeny displaying very high surface levels of class II protein--roughly five times the normal amount--allowing us to evaluate the consequences of quantitative variation in Ia molecule density on the organization and function of the immune system. The effects appear rather limited: we detect subtle changes in thymic lymphocyte subpopulations, as well as an enhanced Ag presentation capacity in vitro. Yet, in vivo responses are largely unaffected, and Ia overexpression to such levels does not provoke lymphoproliferation, immunodeficiency, or autoimmunity.

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