Major histocompatibility complex (MHC) class I molecules bind and present short antigenic peptides from endogenously or exogenously derived sources to CD8(+) cytotoxic T lymphocytes (CTL), with recognition of a foreign peptide normally targeting the cell for lysis. It is generally thought that the high level of MHC polymorphism, which is concentrated mostly within the peptide-binding groove, is driven by the 'evolutionary arms race' against pathogens. Many pathogens have developed novel and intriguing mechanisms for evading the continuous sampling of the intracellular and intercellular environments by MHC molecules, none more so than viruses. The characterization of immunoevasion mechanisms has improved our understanding of MHC biology. This review will highlight our current understanding of the MHC class I biosynthetic pathway and how it has been exploited by pathogens, especially viruses, to potentially evade CTL recognition.