Abstract Primary biliary cirrhosis (PBC) represents a classic indication for orthotopic liver transplantation (OLT); as an autoimmune disease, however, the existence and incidence of recurrent PBC is a matter of significant controversy. Between September 1988 and September 1994 a total of 544 OLTs was performed at our institution. Forty-nine patients (40 female) with a median age of 50.5 years and previous surgery in 36.4 %, received a liver graft for PBC. The mean serum bi-lirubin level was 8.9 mg/dl (range 0.7–29.7). Immunosuppression was commenced as a cyclosporine A-based quadruple therapy or with FK 506 and prednisolone. Protocol liver biopsies were taken at defined intervals posttransplant. Two patients died due to Legionella pneumonia and hypoxic brain damage 2 and 8 weeks after OLT, resulting in an actuarial 5-year survival rate of 95 % with 47/49 patients being alive compared to 83.5 % of all other liver recipients. Evidence of recurrence of PBC, as defined by elevated chole-static parameters and histological features of PBC, was found in four patients, another five patients showed only histological signs. Recurrence of PBC, which might compromise the long-term outcome after OLT, was suspected in 4/47 patients (8.5 %). This evidence of recurrent PBC is in conflict with findings of other groups that did not report recurrent PBC. OLT is still the optimal therapy for advanced PBC, with an excellent prognosis.