Many AKR spontaneous thymomas are reported to express different amounts of the major histocompatibility complex class I H-2Kk molecules. Moreover, H-2Kk-deficient AKR tumor cells are found to be more malignant when compared to tumor cells that express abundant levels of the H-2Kk molecules. To corroborate further the role of H-2Kk in tumorigenesis of AKR leukemia, we have, in this study, expressed antisense H-2Kk RNA in a high-H-2Kk-expressing and poorly tumorigenic AKR thymoma cell line 369. The down-regulation of H-2Kk molecules in the transfected 369 clones rendered them more tumorigenic in syngeneic AKR/J mice. The increase in oncogenicity correlates well with a concomitant reduction in their susceptibility to tumor-specific cytotoxic T lymphocytes in vitro. These results suggest the relevance of H-2Kk molecules in the immune surveillance of AKR tumors.