To assess the immune function of microglia and macrophages in brain tumors, the expression of MHC class II and B7 costimulatory molecules in three rodent glioma models was examined. Microglia and macrophages, which accounted for 5-12% of total cells, expressed B7.1 and MHC class II molecules in the C6 and 9L tumors, but not RG2 gliomas. Interestingly, the expression of B7.1 and MHC class II molecules by microglia and macrophage was associated with an increase in the number of tumor-infiltrating lymphocytes in C6 and 9L tumors. B7.2 expression, which was present at low levels on microglia and macrophages in normal brain, did not significantly change in tumors. Interestingly, the expression of all three surface antigens increased after microglia were isolated from intracranial C6 tumors and cultured for a short period of time. We conclude that microglia immune activity may be suppressed in gliomas and directly correlates to the immunogenecity of experimental brain tumors.