The goal of this study was to determine the frequency of HLA class II antigen expression in colorectal carcinoma (CRC) tumors, its association with the clinical course of the disease, and the underlying mechanism(s). Two tissue microarrays constructed with 220 and 778 CRC tumors were stained with HLA-DR, DQ, and DP antigen-specific monoclonal antibody LGII-612.14, using the immunoperoxidase staining technique. The immunohistochemical staining results were correlated with the clinical course of the disease. The functional role of HLA class II antigens expressed on CRC cells was analyzed by investigating their in vitro interactions with immune cells. HLA class II antigens were expressed in about 25% of the 220 and 21% of the 778 tumors analyzed with an overall frequency of 23%. HLA class II antigens were detected in 19% of colorectal adenomas. Importantly, the percentage of stained cells and the staining intensity were significantly lower than those detected in CRC tumors. However, HLA class II antigen staining was weakly detected only in 5.4% of 37 normal mucosa tissues. HLA class II antigen expression was associated with a favorable clinical course of the disease. In vitro stimulation with interferon gamma (IFNγ) induced HLA class II antigen expression on two of the four CRC cell lines tested. HLA class II antigen expression on CRC cells triggered interleukin-1β (IL-1β) production by resting monocytes. HLA class II antigen expression in CRC tumors is a favorable prognostic marker. This association may reflect stimulation of IL-1β production by monocytes.