The kinetics of messenger RNA (mRNA) and protein levels of cytokine-induced neutrophil chemoattractant (CINC) in rat hepatic allografts during acute rejection were investigated. Infiltrating cells were identified by double immunostaining with anti-CINC and anti-macrophage monoclonal antibodies, ED1 and ED2. The serum CINC concentration in untreated hepatic allograft recipients increased significantly at a constant rate over time after transplantation. No significant increases in serum CINC concentrations were observed in hepatic isografts or allografts treated with the immunosuppressant FK506. The number of neutrophils in untreated hepatic allografts increased significantly at a constant rate. Conversely, neutrophil accumulation in isografts or allografts treated with FK506 was much less than in untreated hepaticallografts. Immunostaining revealed that in the portal areas, mononuclear cells infiltrating untreated allograft liver were mainly positive for CINC and that CINC+ cells represented a subpopulation (∼ 25%) of the ED1+ cells. On the other hand, in the sinusoidal areas CINC+ cells were scattered and mainly positive for ED2. Levels of CINC mRNA in liver tissues taken from untreated hepatic allografts increased after transplantation, peaked on day 5, and decreased thereafter. Hepatic allografts treated with FK506 or isografts showed much lower levels of CINC mRNA than untreated allografts. Allogeneic mixed lymphocyte reactions induced CINC production. The cellular source of CINC was mononuclear cells. CINC production in mixed lymphocyte reactions was inhibited in the presence of anti-tumor necrosis factor α (TNF-α) antibody. These results suggest that enhanced expression of CINC mRNA and prominent accumulation of neutrophils in the liver grafts are characteristic features of the immune response during acute rejection.