Peptide presentation by HLA class I and II antigens regulates specific antigen recognition by T cells. The present study aimed to investigate T cell infiltration and its relation to HLA antigen expression in pancreatic neuroendocrine tumors. Fresh tissue samples were collected from five insulinomas and six other neuroendocrine tumors (one gastrinoma, one glucagonoma, two carcinoid, and two neuroendocrine carcinomas). Normal pancreatic and splenic tissue samples were used as controls. Investigation of infiltrating lymphocyte populations, as well as staining of HLA class I and II antigens, were performed by standard immunohistochemistry. The majority of investigated tumors demonstrated an intratumoral infiltration by CD3+, CD4+ and CD8+ T cells that was significantly higher than in normal pancreatic islets. Only a minority of tumor-infiltrating T cells showed the CD45RO+ phenotype. The expression of HLA class I antigen was altered in 10 of 11 tumors. A loss of beta-2microglobulin represented the most frequent type of alteration to HLA class I expression, although the total loss of HLA class I was found in only one case of neuroendocrine carcinoma. HLA class II molecules were expressed by endothelial and lymphoid cells and not by tumor cells. In conclusion most neuroendocrine pancreatic tumors induce a T cell mediated immune response resulting in an intratumoral infiltration with CD3+, CD4+ and CD8+ T cells. Loss of beta-2microglobulin is a frequent alteration in these tumors, which may influence the normal function of the HLA class I antigen complex. In contrast to malignant tumors of the exocrine pancreas, expression of HLA class II was absent in neuendocrine pancreatic tumor cells.