In murine tumor cell lines, downregulation of MHC class I surface expression has been frequently detected, but the underlying molecular mechanisms of such deficiencies have not been defined. In this study, murine tumor cell lines of different histology derived from spontaneous or from chemical-induced tumors were analyzed for the expression of multiple components of the major histocompatibility complex (MHC) class I antigen-processing machinery (APM), including the peptide transporter TAP, the interferon (IFN)-gamma inducible proteasome subunits and several chaperones. The tumor cell lines analyzed demonstrated a heterogeneous expression pattern of various APM components. In comparison to control cells an impaired coordinated expression of at least three APM components was detected. In particular, extensive APM deficiencies were found in cell lines derived from chemical-induced tumors. A strong coordinated downregulation of expression and/or function of TAP, the low molecular weight proteins (LMP) subunits, the proteasome activator PA28 and/or tapasin was found in 5 of 10 tumor cells, which was associated with impaired MHC class I surface expression. In contrast, the expression of beta2-microglobulin (beta2-m), PA28beta, the constitutive proteasome subunits X, Y, Z and of the chaperones calnexin, calreticulin, ER60 and phospho disulfide isomerase (PDI) was unaltered or only weakly decreased. The deficient expression of APM components could be corrected by IFN-gamma treatment, which also reconstituted MHC class I surface expression. However, impaired expression of APM molecules appears not to be the only cause of abnormal MHC class I expression, since it could neither be corrected by the addition of exogeneous MHC class I binding peptides nor by incubation at low temperature. These results suggest that one major mechanism of murine tumor cells, in particular chemical-induced tumors, to evade the immune system is the combined dysregulation of various APM components and other factors, which still have to be identified.