Analysis of HLA class II transgenic mice has progressed in recent years from analysis of single chain HLA class II transgenes with expression of mixed mouse/human heterodimers to double transgenic mice expressing normal human heterodimers. Previous studies have used either HLA transgenic mice in which there is a species-matched interaction with CD4 or mice which lack this interaction. Since both systems are reported to generate HLA-restricted responses, the matter of the requirement for species-matched CD4 remains unclear. We have generated triple transgenic mice expressing three human transgenes, DRA, DRB, and CD4, and compared HLA-restricted responses to peptide between human-CD4+ (Hu-CD4+) and Hu-CD4- littermates. We saw no difference between Hu-CD4+ and Hu-CD4- groups, supporting the notion that for some responses at least the requirement for species-matched CD4 may not be absolute. Evidence for positive selection of mouse T cell receptors in HLA-DR transgenic mice came both from the acquisition of new, HLA-restricted responses to various peptides and from an increased frequency of T cells using the TCR V beta 4 gene segment. An important goal with respect to the analysis of function in HLA transgenic mice is the clarification of mechanisms which underpin the recognition of self-antigens in human autoimmune disease. As a first step towards 'humanized' disease models in HLA transgenic mice, we analyzed the responses of HLA-DR transgenic mice to the human MPB 139-154 peptide which has been implicated as an epitope recognized by T cells of multiple sclerosis patients. We obtained T cell responses to this epitope in transgenic mice but not in nontransgenic controls. This study suggests that HLA transgenic mice will be valuable in the analysis of HLA-restricted T cell epitopes implicated in human disease and possibly in the design of new disease models.