The structures of Ia molecules expressed by two BALB/c B cell lymphoma lines, A20-1.11 (A20) and 2PK3, were analyzed in an effort to explain the differences in antigen-presenting capacity displayed by these cells. Alloreactive T cell hybridomas specific for I-Ad and antigen-specific, I-Ad-restricted T cells responded well to A20 as the APC. The same alloreactive T cell hybridomas responded weakly or not at all to 2PK3 and the responses of the antigen-specific, I-Ad-restricted T cells were consistently lower to antigen presented by 2PK3 as compared with A20. T cells restricted to I-Ed responded equally well to either A20 or 2PK3 as APC. Additionally 2PK3, but not A20, stimulated a strong syngeneic mixed lymphocyte response. Structural analyses of the Ia antigens revealed that I-A and I-E molecules were expressed by A20, whereas an I-E and a novel I-A-like molecule were expressed by 2PK3. The novel class II molecule was affinity purified from 2PK3 cells using an mAb specific for Ad beta (MK-D6), and this molecule was subsequently shown by an RIA to react with an E alpha-specific mAb (14-4-4S) as well. Chain-specific polyclonal antisera raised against I-A and I-E alpha and beta chains indicated that the 2PK3 "I-A" alpha chain reacted in immunoblot with E alpha-specific and not A alpha-specific antisera, whereas the beta chain reacted with A beta- and not E beta-specific antisera. Peptide map and partial amino acid sequence analyses indicated that the "I-A" molecule expressed by 2PK3 represented a mixed isotype structure resulting from the pairing of Ed alpha with Ad beta. By immunofluorescence staining analysis, 2PK3 did not react with an mAb specific for Ad alpha. 2PK3 was capable of limited antigen presentation through the mixed isotype molecule to I-Ad-restricted OVA-specific T cell hybridomas, although the responses induced were low compared with presentation through I-A on A20. Previous descriptions of the expression of mixed isotype class II molecules in the mouse have resulted primarily from DNA-mediated gene transfer experiments. The results presented indicate that a mixed isotype class II molecule can be expressed naturally.