Abstract Over the past few years there has been increasing awareness of the importance of humoral mechanisms in the rejection of renal transplants. In this study we have monitored the development of antibodies directed against donor T and B lymphocytes using the sensitive flow cytometric technique. Forty-two cadaveric renal transplants were studied both before and for a maximum of 14 days after transplantation. Donor cells were separated from spleen on the day of transplantation and stored in liquid nitrogen until required. The dual colour flow cytometric assay was used to detect IgG or IgM directed againts donor T or B lymphocytes. Using AB sera as controls, results were expressed as relative median fluorescence (RMF) and then correlated with the clinical performance of the grafts. Significant associations were found between the incidence of donor-directed antibodies and the development of clinical rejection. The magnitude of the rise in antibody levels was also related to graft performance. In patients showing severe graft rejection, high levels of antibodies of the IgG class developed before the clinical diagnosis of rejection was made. The routine use of this test allows the prediction of impending severe rejection to be made and may have important implications for immunosuppressive therapy.