Antigens that produce an antibody response in some members of a species may fail to do so in others. The response to an antigen is controlled by a gene termed the immune response (Ir) gene, which is transmitted as a single dominant trait. We have provided evidence for similar immune suppression (Is) genes which control non-responsiveness through the antigen specific suppressor T cell. The non-responsiveness is also dominantly inherited and the Is genes are linked to the histocompatibility (HLA) antigen system. Here we report that the HLA-DR2 molecule from a non-responder haplotype (HLA-Dw12-DR2-DQwl) is required for the proliferative T cell response to schistosoma japonicum (Sj) antigen, as a restriction element, indicating that the HLA-DR2 is the product of the Ir gene, and that the HLA-DQwl molecule of the non-responder haplotype is important in the antigen-specific suppression of the response to this antigen, suggesting that it is the product of the Is gene. We therefore conclude that the HLA-DR and DQ molecules, which are controlled by the distinct genes in the MHC multigene family, regulate immune response and immune suppression and that the gene for HLA-DQ is epistatic to that for HLA-DR in controlling the immune response to schistosomal antigen in humans.