A retrospective analysis was undertaken to determine if the incidence, timing, and severity of acute and chronic rejection were influenced by the primary disease necessitating transplantation. Of the 875 liver transplantations performed between 1984 and 1992, 768 were primary transplantations and 107 were retransplantations. Among the former, 330 patients that were liver transplant recipients for a chronic liver disease without cancer in the native liver received an ABO-compatible and cross-match-negative graft and were given a cyclosporine- or tacrolimus-based immunosuppression. These included primary biliary cirrhosis (PBC, 66 patients), primary sclerosing cholangitis (PSC, 23 patients), alcoholic cirrhosis (ALC, 21 patients), autoimmune cirrhosis (AIC, 17 patients), hepatitis B virus-induced cirrhosis (HBV-C, 116 patients) and hepatitis C virus-induced cirrhosis (HCV-C, 87 patients). The incidence of acute (48% ± 3% [SE] at 1 year) and chronic rejection (10% ± 2% at 3 years) was comparable in patients who have undergone transplantation for PBC, PSC, AIC, and HCV-C. However, the incidence of acute (but not chronic) rejection was significantly lower in patients who have undergone transplantation for ALC (29% at 1 year). This reduced incidence of acute rejection was associated with an increased incidence of bacterial infections. In patients who have undergone transplantation for HBV-C (the majority of whom had received long-term anti-hepatitis B surface antigen [HBs] immunoglobulins), the incidence of both acute (21% at 1 year) and chronic rejection (0% at 3 years) was significantly lower, whereas the incidence of septic complications was comparable with that in the other groups. The incidence of acute rejection in patients who have undergone transplantation for nonviral disease receiving polyclonal human anti- cytomegalovirus (CMV) immunoglobulins was also significantly lower than that of patients who did not receive the immunoglobulins (19% vs. 48% at 3 months; P = .01), and this was identical to that of patients who have undergone transplantation for viral disease receiving polyclonal human anti-HBs immunoglobulins (19% at 3 months). These results show that the risk of rejection is unequal among patients, being lower in patients who have undergone transplantation for ALC (probably as a result of a state of nonspecific hyporesponsiveness) and in patients who have undergone transplantation for HBV-C (possibly as a result of long-term administration of polyclonal human immunoglobulins).