Murine T cell responses to human class II major histocompatibility complex (MHC) molecules were shown to be a minimum of 20-70-fold lower than responses to allogeneic molecules. Transgenic mice expressing slightly below normal (75-95%) or very high (250-380%) cell surface levels of human CD4 were utilized to determine whether this was due to a species-specific interaction between murine CD4 and class II molecules. Human CD4 was shown to function in signal transduction events in murine T cells based on the ability of anti-human CD4 antibody to synergize with suboptimal doses of anti-murine CD3 antibody in stimulating T cell proliferation. In mice expressing lower levels of human CD4, T cell responses to human class II molecules were enhanced up to threefold, whereas allogeneic responses were unaltered. In mice expressing high levels of human CD4, responses to human class II molecules were enhanced at least 10-fold, whereas allogeneic responses were between one and three times the level of normal responses. The relatively greater enhancement of the response to human class II molecules in both lines argues for a preferential interaction between human CD4 and human class II molecules. In mice expressing lower levels of human CD4, responses to human class II molecules were blocked by antibodies to CD4 of either species, indicating participation by both molecules. In mice expressing high levels of human CD4, responses to both human and murine class II molecules were almost completely blocked with anti-human CD4 antibody, whereas anti-murine CD4 antibody had no effect. However, anti-murine CD4 continued to synergize with anti-CD3 in stimulating T cell proliferation in these mice. Thus, overexpression of human CD4 selectively impaired the ability of murine CD4 to assist in the process of antigen recognition. The ability of human CD4 to support a strong allogeneic response under these conditions indicates that this molecule can interact with murine class II molecules to a significant extent. Despite the fact that human CD4 appeared to be the only functional coreceptor in these mice, responses to human class II molecules were still much lower than those to murine class II alloantigens. This indicates that species-specific interactions between class II molecules and CD4 expressed on peripheral T cells are not sufficient to account for the low xenogeneic response and that intrinsic differences in T cell receptor structures or the need for species specificity in the interaction between CD4 and class II molecules during positive selection are also important.