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Gallium nitrate (GN) was evaluated for its ability to interfere with acute rejection of DBA/2→C457BL/6 heterotopic cardiac allografts, in comparison with the depleting anti-CD4 mAb, GK1.5. The administration of GN for 30 days (s.c. 30 mg/kg elemental gallium on days 0 and 3, 10 mg/kg every third day) resulted in >60-day graft survival in 78% (25 of 32) of the graft recipients, whereas 2 perioperative injections of anti-CD4 monclonal antibody (mAb) resulted in >60-day graft survival in 58% (24 of 41) of the graft recipients. Serum gallium levels peaked at about 2000 ng/ml after 2-3 weeks of treatment and decreased to about 300 ng/ml by day 60, a level that was maintained for at least 30 more days. During the early posttransplant period, 25% of GN-treated grafts, but not anti-CD4 mAb-treated grafts, exhibited an unusual, transient reduction in graft impulse strength, suggesting a transient rejection response. Macroscopically, the long-surviving (>60 days) grafts from either treatment group exhibited none of the features of rejecting allografts. Histologically, they exhibited minor edema and rare epicardial inflammation but no tissue necrosis. However, there were vascular changes in allografts from GN-treated mice, including altered endothelial morphology, associated with moderate intimal hyperplasia and mild perivascular leukocytic infiltration. Allografts from anti-CD4 mAb-treated mice exhibited prominent neointimal hyperplasia associated with endothelial morphologic changes and prominent vascular and perivascular leukocytic infiltration. In general, both GN and anti-CD4 mAb promoted long-term allograft survival, but these allografts displayed the histopathologic signs of ongoing inflammation and chronic allograft rejection.