Site-directed mutagenesis in vitro was used to introduce stop codons in the genomic DNA of the alpha and beta chains of the murine class II major histocompatibility complex antigen, I-Ak. Mutated DNA was transfected into B lymphoma cells that were then selected by neomycin resistance and for their ability to express I-Ak molecules on their plasma membrane. The translational diffusion coefficient (Dlat) of I-Ak molecules composed of a wild-type beta chain paired with an alpha chain missing either 6 or 12 amino acids from the cytoplasmic domain is on the average threefold higher than the Dlat of wild-type I-Ak molecules as measured by fluorescence photobleaching and recovery. The removal of 12 amino acids from the cytoplasmic domain of the beta chain did not change the Dlat value from that of wild-type I-Ak if the truncated beta chain was paired with a wild-type alpha chain. Removing all amino acids of the cytoplasmic domains of both the alpha and beta chains resulted in a 10-fold increase in the Dlat, the highest value for any of the truncated I-Ak molecules tested. These data indicate that the carboxy-terminal six amino acids of the cytoplasmic domain of the alpha chain and the six plasma membrane-proximal amino acids of the beta chain are important in constraining the translational diffusion of I-Ak molecules in the plasma membrane.

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