Transgenic mice carrying the HER-2/neu proto-oncogene under tissue-specific transcriptional control of a mammary tumor virus long terminal repeat (Tg-MMTVneu mice) spontaneously develop mammary carcinomas. HER-2/neu is a tumor antigen that can be recognized by cytotoxic T lymphocytes if tumor cells present the appropriate major histocompatibility complex (MHC) class I glycoproteins. The purpose of this work was to assess whether mammary carcinomas arising in Tg-MMTVneu mice correctly expressed MHC (H-2q) class I gene products. We analyzed by flow cytometry 51 primary tumors from 19 transgenic mice. About one-half of the tumors showed a reduced expression of class I antigens. All tumors were highly positive for membrane neu. Some mice had multiple mammary carcinomas with widely different MHC expression levels, and most mice had at least one tumor with a low expression. Treatment with gamma-interferon of carcinoma cells cultured in vitro induced a strong reexpression of H-2q antigens. Our results suggest that the immune response activated in vivo by HER-2/neu-positive tumors can lead to the emergence of escape variants characterized by a down-regulation of MHC class I products.