Invariant chain (Ii) is a chaperone molecule that inhibits binding of endogenous antigens to class II molecules. High levels of Ii in cancer cells may prevent tumour antigen expression with class II and render the tumour less immunogenic. To correlate the expression of Ii and class II molecules in colon carcinomas with the density of tumour infiltrating lymphocytes (TILs), surgical specimens from a total of 48 patients with well-(WDAC), moderately (MDAC) and poorly differentiated adenocarcinomas (PDAC), adenoma with high-grade dysplasia (AdHGD) and adenomas were immunostained for Ii and class II antigen (HLA-DR). Aggregates of TILs were graded in H&E-stained sections. Normal colon epithelium was negative for Ii and HLA-DR. Invasive carcinomas showed a linear increase in the expression of Ii in the progression from low- to high-grade tumours, while there was no significant difference in HLA-DR expression across the groups. Invasive carcinomas showed a disproportionate increase in Ii over HLA-DR. Frequency of TILs showed inverse correlation with expression of Ii and tumour grade. This is the first demonstration that expression of Ii increases in the progression from low- to high-grade colon neoplasms and is most marked in the poorly differentiated carcinomas. Ii expression by carcinomas is inversely related to the frequency of TILs. The findings suggest that increased Ii renders the tumour less immunogenic and less likely to stimulate a host immune response.