RJ 2.2.5 is a human B cell line that has lost the capacity to express MHC class II genes. The human class II-positive phenotype is restored in somatic cell hybrids between RJ 2.2.5 and mouse spleen cells. By karyotype and molecular studies of an informative family of hybrids we have now shown that the reexpression of human class II gene products, as well as the maintenance of the mouse class II-positive phenotype, correlates with the presence of mouse chromosome 16. Thus, the existence on this mouse chromosome of a newly found locus, designated by us aIr-1, that determines a trans-acting activator function for class II gene expression, is established. Possible implications of this finding are discussed.