The murine Ia antigens, encoded by the I region of the major histocompatibility complex, are cell-surface glyco-proteins (consisting of alpha and beta polypeptides) thought to be involved in the control of immune responsiveness. Mice of haplotypes b, s, q, and f fail to express one of the Ia antigen complexes, the E complex, on the cell surface. We have attempted to determine at the molecular level how such a defect (or defects) might be generated. By using I-region E alpha and A alpha gene probes for analyses of RNA and DNA structure, it was possible to conclude that at least three mechanisms can operate. Mice of haplotypes b and s bear a deletion in the E alpha gene, f haplotype mice synthesize predominantly an E alpha mRNA of aberrant size, and mice of the q haplotype seem to have a defect in RNA processing or a problem with mRNA stability, or both.