CD8+ T lymphocytes recognize antigens as short, MHC class I-associated peptides derived by processing of cytoplasmic proteins. The transporter associated with antigen processing translocates peptides from the cytosol into the ER lumen, where they bind to the nascent class I molecules. To date, the precise location of the class I-TAP interaction site remains unclear. We provide evidence that this site is contained within the heavy chain α3 domain. Substitution of a 15 amino acid portion of the H-2Db α3 domain (aa 219-233) with the analogous MHC class II (H-2IAd) β2 domain region (aa 133-147) results in loss of surface expression which can be partially restored upon incubation at 26°C in the presence of excess peptide and β2-microglobulin. Mutant H-2Db (Db219-233) associates poorly with the TAP complex, and cannot present endogenously-derived antigenic peptides requiring TAP-dependent translocation to the ER. However, this presentation defect can be overcome through use of an ER targeting sequence which bypasses TAP-dependent peptide translocation. Thus, the α3 domain serves as an important site of interaction (directly or indirectly) with the TAP complex and is necessary for TAP-dependent peptide loading and class I surface expression.