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The initial (0-24 hr), early (3-5 days), and late (7-14 days) events occurring in LBNF1 renal allografts transplanted into Lew recipients were examined to define precisely the sequential cellular and molecular kinetics during acute rejection. Grafts and spleens were harvested at 3, 6, 12, and 24 hr, and at 3, 5, 7, and 14 days and processed for morphology, immunohistology, and reverse transcriptase-polymerase chain reaction. Various factors (mRNA) were up-regulated sequentially in the allografts over time. In the initial phase, E-selectin and complement (C1 and C3) expression was noted within 6 hr, peaking by 24 hr. RANTES (regulated upon activation, normal T cell expressed and secreted) increased within 6 hr, and then again between 3 and 6 days. By immunohistology, MHC class II was up-regulated consistently after day 1. Intercellular adhesion molecule-1 expression increased after day 3; lymphocyte function-associated antigen-1+ infiltrating leukocytes peaked at day 5. Infiltrating CD8+ T lymphocytes increased strikingly between days 1 and 3, peaking at day 5; CD4+ cells infiltrated more slowly until day 5. The kinetics of ED1+ macrophages were similar to those of lymphocyte function-associated antigen-1+ cells. The CD4+ T cell-derived product, interleukin (IL)-2, peaked at 7 days. Interferon-γ increased progressively up to 14 days. By 3 days, the macrophage-associated factor, transforming growth factor-β, peaked; this was followed by increased IL-6 expression by day 5. IL-1, tumor necrosis factor-α, and inducible nitric oxide synthase increased slowly until day 7, declining thereafter. Endothelin increased progressively over the 14-day follow-up period. Cytokine dynamics occurring in host spleen were similar to those noted in the allografts.Although acute rejection is primarily T cell mediated, adhesion molecules, macrophages, and their associated products may influence initial and later changes. The brisk expression of complement, E-selectin, and RANTES within the first few hours after engraftment may occur secondary to ischemic injury and trigger subsequent immunological events. Macrophages and their products may play a larger role in the process than hitherto appreciated.