In order to characterize the Major histocompatibility complex (MHC) class II A genes of the channel catfish (Ictalurus punctatus) a cDNA library was screened and PCR was performed. Four different full-length cDNA sequences for MHC class II A genes were obtained from a clonal B cell line derived from an outbred fish. Two different genomic sequences and corresponding cDNAs were obtained from a presumably homozygous gynogenetic catfish. The A genes have five exons and four phase one introns. The first exon encodes the 5' untranslated region (UTR) and leader peptide; the second and third exons encode the alpha1 and alpha2 domains, respectively. The connecting peptide, transmembrane and cytoplasmic domains, as well as part of the 3' UTR, are encoded by the fourth exon and the rest of the 3' UTR is encoded by the fifth exon. Southern blot analyses using an exon three probe revealed two to four hybridizing fragments with considerable restriction fragment length polymorphisms evident among randomly selected outbred channel catfish. These findings are consistent with the presence of at least two functional polymorphic MHC class II A gene loci. An unusual aspect of the channel catfish MHC class II alpha chain is its lack of N-linked glycosylation sites.