Insulin-dependent diabetes mellitus is characterized by the infiltration of lymphocytes into the islets of Langerhans of the pancreas (insulitis) followed by destruction of insulin-secreting beta-cells leading to overt diabetes. The best model for the disease is the non-obese diabetic (NOD) mouse. Two unusual features of the class II major histocompatibility complex (MHC) of the NOD mouse are the absence of I-E and the presence of unique I-A molecules (I-ANOD), in which aspartic acid at position 57 of the beta-chain is replaced by serine. This feature is also found in the HLA-DQ chain of many Caucasians with insulin-dependent diabetes mellitus. We have previously reported that the expression of I-E prevents the development of insulitis in NOD mouse. Here we report that the expression of I-Ak (A alpha kA beta k) in transgenic NOD mice can also prevent insulitis, and that this protection is seen not only when the I-A beta-chain has aspartic acid as residue 57, but also when this residue is serine. These results show that the single amino-acid substitution at position 57 of the I-A beta-chain from aspartic acid to serine is not sufficient for the development of the disease.