The spontaneous expression of HLA class I and class II molecules in two human breast carcinoma cell lines (MCF7, T47D) and their modulation during epidermal growth factor treatment are reported. Transcription was analysed by Northern blot and hybridisation with HLA class II and class I cDNA specific probes. The expression of cell surface determinants was examined by internal protein labelling with 35s-methionine, immunoprecipitation with monoclonal antibodies specific for HLA class I or class II, followed by isolation of the immune complex on protein A-Sepharose; at least a quantification of glycoprotein was performed by chromatofocusing. Glycoprotein quantification showed a significant increase of HLA class I and class II (DR) antigen expression after stimulation by epidermal growth factor (0.02 microgram ml-1) in the two cell lines, when compared with untreated cell controls. However, with epidermal growth factor treatment of MCF7 and T47D cells, low increases in the amounts of HLA class I and class II RNA were obtained. These differences between expressed antigens and correspondent RNA amounts would be explained by the fact that EGF in these two cell lines acts more in post-transcription for HLA class I and class II antigens.