Inflammatory processes can stimulate renal epithelial cells to release cytokines, chemoattractants and matrix proteins into the interstitium, thus contributing to interstitial injury during acute allograft rejection. To test the role of interleukin 17 (IL-17) in this process, cultured human renal epithelial cells (hRECs) were first established and treated with or without human IL-17 (hIL-17) for 2, 4, 8 and 10 h in vitro. Significant elevations of IL-6 and IL-8 levels were noted in the supernatants in a dose-dependent and time-dependent manner, as also for IL-6 mRNA expression. Secondly, using a rat acute allograft rejection model, the correlation between IL-17 expression and histopathological changes was serially studied. The results demonstrated that increased expression of IL-17 protein on infiltrating mononuclear cells (MNCs) was detectable on day 2. This corresponds to the borderline change of acute rejection according to the Banff classification, and it increased progressively to day 5. Serial study of IL-6, IL-8 and IL-17 mRNA expression of the renal allograft confirmed IL-17 mRNA expression in the allograft early on post-transplant day 2, whereas IL-6 and IL-8 expression started on day 3. Thirdly, IL-17 expression was observed in human renal allograft and urinary sediment. IL-17 protein expression was found in human subclinical (borderline) rejection renal allograft biopsy tissue and none in biopsy tissue not showing any evidence of rejection. There was also a 100% detectable rate of IL-17 mRNA expression in the MNCs of urinary sediment of patients with subclinical borderline rejection. These results demonstrate that hRECs exposed to IL-17 can produce inflammatory mediators with the potential to stimulate early alloimmune responses, which may also serve to give warning of acute renal allograft rejection. Copyright © 2002 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.