The major histocompatibility complex (MHC) of the mouse is located on chromosome 17 in the distal inversion of the t complex. In addition to genes playing major roles in the immune response, it contains a diversity of genes. In humans, numerous diseases are known to be associated with the MHC loci. Moreover, at least three recessive embryonic t-lethal mutations have been mapped to the MHC. Here a molecular genetic approach was used to study the detailed genomic structure of 240 kilobases (kb) surrounding the H-2K gene and 150 kb of a partly homologous region located in the distal inversion of the t complex. Combined with previous findings, the H-2K region was found to contain an impressively high density of genes--12 transcription units in 240 kb. Surprisingly, virtually all of these genes are expressed in testis and/or embryos. The genomic organization of this region is contrasted with the 150 kb of the homologous area where only three genes and an endogenous retrovirus reside.