The chicken major histocompatibility complex (MHC) has strong genetic associations with resistance and susceptibility to certain infectious pathogens. The cell surface expression level of MHC class I molecules varies as much as 10-fold between chicken haplotypes and is inversely correlated with diversity of peptide repertoire and with resistance to Marek's disease caused by an oncogenic herpesvirus. Here we show that the average thermostability of class I molecules isolated from cells also varies, being higher for high-expressing MHC haplotypes. However, we find roughly the same amount of class I protein synthesized by high-and low-expressing MHC haplotypes, with movement to the cell surface responsible for the difference in expression. Previous data show that chicken TAP genes have high allelic polymorphism, with peptide translocation specific for each MHC haplotype. Here we use assembly assays with peptide libraries to show that high-expressing B15 class I molecules can bind a much wider variety of peptides than are found on the cell surface, with the B15 TAPs restricting the peptides available. In contrast, the translocation specificity of TAPs from the low-expressing B21 haplotype is even more permissive than the promiscuous binding shown by the dominantly expressed class I molecule. B15/B21 heterozygote cells show much greater expression of B15 class I molecules than B15/B15 homozygote cells, presumably as a result of receiving additional peptides from the B21 TAPs. Thus, chicken MHC haplotypes vary in several correlated attributes, with the most obvious candidate linking all these properties being molecular interactions within the peptide-loading complex (PLC).