Gamma interferon (IFN-gamma) induces expression of the gene products of the major histocompatibility complex (MHC), whereas IFN-alpha/beta can interfere with or suppress class II protein expression. In separate studies, measles virus (MV) was reported to induce IFN-alpha/beta and to up-regulate MHC class II proteins. In an attempt to resolve this paradox, we examined the surface expression of MHC class I and class II proteins in MV-infected peripheral monocytes in the presence and absence of IFN-alpha/beta. Infection of purified monocytes with Edmonston B MV resulted in an apparent increase in cell surface expression of HLA-A, -B, and -C class I proteins, but it had no effect on the expression of HLA-DR class II proteins. MV-infected purified monocytes expressed IFN-alpha/beta, but no measurable IFN-gamma expression was detected in supernatant fluids. Class II protein expression could be enhanced by coculture of purified monocytes with uninfected peripheral blood mononuclear cell (PBMC) supernatant. MV infection of PBMCs also did not affect expression of class II proteins, but the expression of HLA-A, -B, and -C class I proteins was increased two- to threefold in most donor cells. A direct role for IFN-alpha/beta suppression of MHC class II protein expression was not evident in monocytes since MV suppressed class II protein expression in the absence of IFN-alpha/beta. Taken together, these data suggest that MV interferes with the expression of peptide-loaded class II complexes, an effect that may potentially alter CD4(+)-T-cell proliferation and the cell-mediated immune responses that they help to regulate.