A peptide (Leu-Gly-Arg-Pro-Asp-Glu-Asp-Ser-Ser-Ser-Ser-Ser-Ser-Ser-Cys) that was identical to residues 82 through 96 of a predicted protein of 208 amino acids from the immediate-early region (IE-2) nucleic acid sequence of human cytomegalovirus was chemically synthesized. By computer analysis, the first five amino acids of this peptide showed sequence homology to the beta chain of the human histocompatibility complex HLA-DR. The homologous amino acids, 53 through 57, were located in a region that is conserved between the human DR beta chain and the beta chain of the H-2 class II histocompatibility antigen for mice. The shared region between the IE-2 protein and DR beta chain were similar in both hydrophilicity and predicted beta-turn potential. The IE-2 viral peptide induced antibodies that specifically recognized the human DR beta chain. These observations describe a protein encoded by the IE-2 region of human cytomegalovirus that contains sequence homology and shows immunologic cross-reactivity with a conserved domain of HLA-DR and suggest a mechanism to explain how human cytomegalovirus infection contributes to graft rejection after transplantation.