Molecular variation among major histocompatibility complex (MHC) class I (B-F) proteins from B-homozygous chickens is apparently caused by C-terminal variation. Analysis of the total B-F protein pool revealed substantial heterogeneity with two or three molecular mass constituents, each being comprised by several isoelectric focusing variants. This heterogeneity could not be reduced by enzymatic deglycosylation. By contrast, proteolytic removal of a small (Mr 1000-4000) fragment from the alpha chain resulted in the generation of a Mr 36,000 fragment, common to all the molecular mass variants. Unlike the parent proteins, the Mr 36,000 fragment derived from isolated variants yielded identical, simple patterns in two-dimensional gel electrophoresis and identical finger prints in peptide mapping. This, together with N-terminal amino acid sequencing, as well as comparison of hydrophobicity properties of fragments obtained by gradual proteolytic digestion, indicated that the small peptide responsible for the major B-F heterogeneity was situated in the intracellular, C-terminal part.