Human leukocytes were stimulated in vitro with peptides corresponding in sequence to the highly variable helix of the alpha 1 domain of various HLA-B and -C molecules. A CD4+ CD8- cytotoxic T cell line, CTL-AV, that is specific for the HLA-B7 peptide presented by HLA-DR11.1 was obtained. The HLA-DR11.2 molecule, which only differs at three residues from HLA-DR11.1, did not present the HLA-B7 peptide to CTL-AV. Peptides from the alpha 1 domain helix of other HLA-A and HLA-B molecules, but not HLA-C molecules, competed with the HLA-B7 peptide for binding to HLA-DR11.1. A cell line (WT50) that coexpresses HLA-B7 and HLA-DR11.1 was killed by CTL-AV in the absence of any added HLA-B7 peptide. The processing and presentation of HLA-B7 in these cells appears to be through the endogenous, and not the exogenous, pathway of antigen presentation. Thus, Brefeldin A inhibits presentation and chloroquine does not. Furthermore, introduction of purified HLA-B7 molecules into HLA-DR11.1+, HLA-B7- cells by cytoplasmic loading via osmotic lysis of pinosomes, but not by simple incubation, rendered them susceptible to CTL-AV killing. These results provide an example of class II major histocompatibility complex (MHC) presentation of a constitutively synthesized self protein that uses the endogenous pathway of antigen presentation. They also emphasize the capacity for presentation of MHC peptides by MHC molecules.