To better understand the role of class II major histocompatibility complex molecules in both normal and autoimmune responses, we have produced a series of I-Ab transgenic mice. One of these transgenic constructs, designated NOD.PD, has the sequence of the NOD beta chain (Abeta(g7)) except at positions 56 and 57, where Pro-Asp replaces His-Ser. Several NOD.PD transgenic lines have been produced. One line of these mice carried a very high number of copies (>50) of the NOD.PD transgene. As has been described in other mice carrying high copy numbers of I-Ab transgenes, B-cell development was abnormal. The steady state numbers of mature B cells (IgM+/IgD(hi)) in the periphery were greatly reduced in transgenic mice compared to nontransgenic littermates. Surprisingly, rather than being accompanied by a generalized hypogammaglobulinemia, this B-cell deficiency was accompanied by elevated concentrations of IgG1 and IgE in the serum. Conversely, the levels of IgG2a were reduced in transgenic mice compared to nontransgenic littermates. Because this isotype pattern was characteristic of interleukin (IL)-4-induced class-switching, we then investigated the role of IL-4 in causing the observed phenotype. We crossed the high copy number transgenic mice with an IL-4-deficient strain of mice. As expected, the elevated levels of IgE in high copy number transgenic mice were eliminated when the IL-4 gene was inactivated. However, the reduction in the number of B cells was not ameliorated. These data indicate that the primary defect caused by the transgene was to reduce the number of B cells in these mice. This reduction was accompanied by a secondary increase in IL-4 production, which drove the remaining B cells toward the production of IgGl and IgE.