Constitutive cell surface expression of Human Leukocyte Antigen (HLA) class I antigens vary extremely from tissue to tissue and individual antigens may differ widely in expression levels. Down-regulation of class I expression is a known immune evasive mechanism used by cancer cells and viruses. Moreover, recent observations suggest that even minor differences in expression levels may influence the course of viral infections and the frequency of complications to stem cell transplantation. We have shown that some human multipotent stem cells have high expression of HLA-A while HLA-B is only weakly expressed, and demonstrate here that this is also the case for the human embryonic kidney cell line HEK293T. Using quantitative flow cytometry and quantitative polymerase chain reaction we found expression levels of endogenous HLA-A3 (median 71,204 molecules per cell) 9.2-fold higher than the expression of-B7 (P = 0.002). Transfection experiments with full-length HLA-A2 and -B8 encoding plasmids confirmed this (54,031 molecules per cell vs. 2,466, respectively, P = 0.001) independently of transcript levels suggesting a post-transcriptional regulation. Using chimeric constructs we found that the cytoplasmic tail and the transmembrane region had no impact on the differential cell surface expression. In contrast, ~65% of the difference could be mapped to the six C-terminal amino acids of the alpha 2 domain and the alpha 3 domain (amino acids 176-284), i.e. amino acids not previously shown to be of importance for differential expression levels of HLA class I molecules. We suggest that the differential cell surface expression of two common HLA-A and-B alleles is regulated by a post-translational mechanism that may involve hitherto unrecognized molecules.