We have constructed transgenic mice that express the human class II MHC molecule HLA-DR alpha on a genetic background in which the equivalent endogenous gene, H-2 IE alpha, is not expressed. In these mice, DR alpha complemented the E beta chain such that tissue-specific expression of an interspecies hybrid DR alpha-E beta heterodimer was obtained. Despite 25% amino acid differences between DR alpha and E alpha, immune responsiveness to IE-controlled antigens, clonal deletion of IE-reactive T cells, and alloantigenicity were quantitatively and qualitatively indistinguishable in IE-positive mice and in mice that had integrated at least four copies of the transgene. These results demonstrate a remarkable degree of structural, regulatory, and functional conservation. They also suggest that tolerance induction involves only discrete portions of MHC molecules.