The invariant chain (li) has aroused much interest because of its close association with major histocompatibility complex (MHC) class II molecules. Various functions have been proposed for it; several of these have received experimental support, but most have not been definitively proven, owing largely to uncertainties inherent in the experimental systems employed. We have now generated a line of mice devoid of the invariant chain by introducing a drastic mutation into the li gene. Cells from mutant animals show aberrant transport of MHC class II molecules, resulting in reduced levels of class II complexes at the surface, and these do not have the typical compact conformation indicative of tight peptide binding. Consequently, mutant cells present protein antigens very poorly and mutant mice are deficient in producing and at negatively selecting CD4+ T cells.