HLA class II antigens are highly polymorphic cell-surface proteins involved in initiation and regulation of the immune response. Allelic sequence variation primarily affects the structure of the first external domains of alpha and beta component chains. Here we provide evidence for other types of allelic polymorphism for the genes encoding these chains. Sequences of two cDNA clones corresponding to HLA-DQB mRNAs from an HLA-homozygous cell line exhibit both alternative splicing and read-through of polyadenylylation. Furthermore, alternative splicing that deletes the transmembrane exon is associated with only a subset of HLA-DQB alleles, while the polyadenylylation-site read-through is found in a larger subset. This suggest that polymorphic cis-acting elements within the HLA-DQB gene control both processing steps. Proteins, presumably encoded by alternatively spliced mRNAs lacking transmembrane exons, are immunoprecipitated with a monomorphic monoclonal antibody directed against HLA-DQ. These proteins are found in supernatants of cultured cell lines for which secretion is predicted, but not in those of cell lines that do not contain alternatively spliced mRNAs.