During biosynthesis, class II major histocompatibility complex molecules are intimately associated with invariant chain (Ii). The Ii-class II association has been shown to block peptide-class II binding and to affect the ultimate conformation of class II expressed on the cell surface. To assess the biochemical basis for the effects of Ii on class II, we have analyzed the biosynthesis of class II in EL4 cells transfected with I-Ad with and without Ii. In these studies, we found that Ii had a profound effect on the biosynthesis of I-Ad. In the absence of Ii, class II could form dimers efficiently, but these dimers appeared to be misfolded and this altered conformation resulted in the loss of some monoclonal antibody epitopes and inefficient transport from the endoplasmic reticulum to the Golgi. In addition, class II that was transported through the Golgi accumulated an abnormally increased molecular mass associated with N-linked glycosylation. Subsequent transfection of Ii into these cells resulted in recovery of normal class II conformation, causing a restoration of monoclonal antibody epitopes, efficient intracellular transport, and normal glycosylation. Together, these data indicate that Ii can have a profound effect on the folding, transport, and modification of class II molecules and suggest that one function of Ii may be to act as a class II-specific chaperone.