A defect in a trans-regulatory factor which controls major histocompatibility complex class II gene expression is responsible for an inherited form of immunodeficiency with a lack of expression of human leukocyte antigen (HLA) class II antigens. We have recently described and cloned an HLA class II promoter DNA-binding protein, RF-X, present in normal B cells and absent in these class II-deficient regulatory mutants. Here we report that these in vitro results correlate with a specific change in the chromatin structure of the class II promoter: two prominent DNase I-hypersensitive sites were identified in the promoter of the HLA-DRA gene in normal B lymphocytes and found to be absent in the class II-deficient mutant cells. The same two prominent DNase I-hypersensitive sites were observed in normal fibroblastic cells induced by gamma interferon to express class II genes. Interestingly, they were also observed in the uninduced class II-negative fibroblastic cells, which have also been shown to have a normal RF-X binding pattern. We conclude that the two DNase I-hypersensitive sites in the HLA-DRA promoter reflect features in chromatin structure which correlate with the binding of the trans-acting factor RF-X and which are necessary but not sufficient for the expression of class II genes.