HLA-G is a non-classical MHC class 1 molecule, expressed primarily on human foetal trophoblast cells, which exhibits almost no genetic polymorphism. Because of these unusual features, HLA-G has been suggested to help prevent maternal immune attack of the semi-allogeneic foetus. The aim of these experiments was to investigate the effects of HLA-G on T-lymphocyte responses by using MHC class II-bearing HLA-G transfectants as stimulators of a mixed lymphocyte reaction. The presence of HLA-G, but not classical HLA class I, on the surface of stimulator cells markedly suppressed thymidine incorporation by peripheral blood mononuclear responder cells from a class I-similar, class II-dissimilar male. The suppressive effect of HLA-G on the mixed lymphocyte reaction persisted after depletion of phagocytes and CD8(+) T-cells from the responder population, but the mixed lymphocyte reaction was entirely abolished by depletion of CD4(+) T-cells. These results suggest that HLA-G exerts a direct suppressive effect on CD4(+) T-lymphocytes, even in the absence of the CD8(+) cells with which other human MHC class I molecules are thought to interact. Thus, HLA-G may allow the foetus to escape maternal immune attack by modulating CD4(+) T-cell activity.