Transgenic mice expressing chimeric human leukocyte antigen (HLA)-B*0702 and murine H-2K(b) class I molecules were evaluated as a model system to study the immunogenicity of human cytotoxic T lymphocyte epitopes. Immunization of these mice with six known HLA-B*0702-restricted cytotoxic T lymphocyte epitopes emulsified in incomplete Freund's adjuvant induced significant immune responses specific for all six epitopes. A comparison of the immune responses between HLA-B*0702/K(b) and HLA-A*0201/K(b) transgenic mice demonstrated that the HLA-B*0702/K(b) mice possess a T-cell receptor repertoire capable of recognizing human B*0702 epitopes. However, the magnitude of B*0702-specific responses induced in B*0702/K(b) mice were approximately tenfold lower than A*0201-specific responses induced in HLA-A*0201/K(b) transgenic mice. A panel of 24 B*0702 motif-bearing peptides was used to examine the relationship between immunogenicity and HLA-B*0702 binding capacity. All seven peptides with high binding affinities of 50% inhibitory concentration < or =50 NM (IC(50) 50 nM or less) were immunogenic. Similarly, 75% (9 of 12) of the intermediate binders (IC(50) nM of 50-500) were also immunogenic. Finally, only two of five peptides with binding capacity > 500 nM were found to have marginal immunogenicity, whereas the other three were completely negative. HLA-B*0702/K(b) transgenic mice were found to induce B*0702-specific responses after immunization with whole DNA genes or minigenes, suggesting that, at least to some degree, B*0702 epitopes were generated as a result of natural in vivo processing and presentation.