Antigen-presenting cells (APC) transfected with a construct encoding the hen egg-white lysozyme (HEL) amino acid sequence 1-80 constitutively present HEL peptides complexed to major histocompatibility complex (MHC) class II molecules to specific T cell hybridomas, indicating that endogenous cellular antigens can be efficiently presented to class II-restricted T cells. Here we show that exogenous peptide competitors added to HEL-transfected APC can inhibit the presentation of endogenous HEL peptides to class II-restricted T cells. The inhibition is specific for the class II molecule binding the competitor peptide, and it affects to the same extent presentation of exogenous or endogenous HEL peptides. These results, demonstrating that an exogenous competitor can inhibit class II-restricted T cell activation induced by endogenous as well as exogenous antigen, suggest lack of strict compartmentalization between endogenous and exogenous pathways of antigen presentation. Since autoreactive T cells may recognize endogenous, as well as exogenous antigens, the results have implications for the treatment of autoimmune diseases by MHC blockade.