Recently, a non-DNA binding protein, class II transactivator (CIITA), has been shown to be required for constitutive and IFN-gamma-inducible class II MHC transcription. The cytokine TGF-beta inhibits IFN-gamma-induced class II MHC expression at the transcriptional level. In this study, we provide evidence that TGF-beta blocks IFN-gamma-induced CIITA mRNA accumulation. TGF-beta down-regulates class II MHC and CIITA mRNA accumulation in human astroglioma and fibrosarcoma cell lines, but TGF-beta does not destabilize the CIITA message, suggesting an effect at the transcriptional level. In cells that stably overexpressed CIITA, leading to a constitutive class II MHC-positive phenotype, the inhibitory effect of TGF-beta on class II MHC was abrogated, but the cells remained responsive for expression of TGF-beta-inducible genes. Cell lines that possessed defects in TGF-beta signaling also became refractory to inhibition of IFN-gamma-induced CIITA and class II MHC expression. Our data indicate that TGF-beta suppresses IFN-gamma-induced class II MHC expression by inhibiting accumulation of CIITA mRNA.