Major histocompatibility complex (MHC) class I molecules are integral membrane proteins present on virtually all vertebrate cells and consist of a heterodimer between the highly polymorphic alpha-chain and the beta 2-microglobulin (beta 2-m) protein of relative molecular mass 12,000 (ref. 1). These cell-surface molecules play a pivotal part in the recognition of antigens, the cytotoxic response of T cells, and the induction of self tolerance. It is possible, however, that the function of MHC class I molecules is not restricted to the immune system, but extends to a wide variety of biological reactions including cell-cell interactions. For example, MHC class I molecules seem to be associated with various cell-surface proteins, including the receptors for insulin, epidermal growth factor, luteinizing hormone and the beta-adrenergic receptor. In mice, class I molecules are secreted in the urine and act as highly specific olfactory cues which influence mating preference. The beta 2-m protein has also been identified as the smaller component of the Fc receptor in neonatal intestinal cells, and it has been suggested that the protein induces collagenase in fibroblasts. Cells lacking beta 2-m are deficient in the expression of MHC class I molecules, indicating that the association with beta 2-m is crucial for the transport of MHC class I molecules to the cell surface. The most direct means of unravelling the many biological functions of beta 2-m is to create a mutant mouse with a defective beta 2-m gene. We have now used the technique of homologous recombination to disrupt the beta 2-m gene. We report here that introduction of a targeting vector into embryonic stem cells resulted in beta 2-m gene disruption with high frequency. Chimaeric mice derived from blastocysts injected with mutant embryonic stem cell clones transmit the mutant allele to their offspring.