CD40 and its ligand CD40L are key players in T cell-B cell interaction and T cell-antigen-presenting cell (APC) interaction. Inhibition of CD40-CD40L interaction leads to severe humoral and cellular immunodeficiency. In this study we examined the presence of soluble CD40 (sCD40) in the serum of haemodialysis (HD) patients, CAPD patients, chronic renal failure (CRF) patients and healthy donors in order to evaluate the possible involvement of CD40 in uraemic immunodeficiency. Soluble CD40 was detected in the serum of healthy donors (n = 41) with a mean of 0.14 +/- 0.12 ng/ml and in the urine of healthy donors with a mean of 1.80 +/- 0.74 ng/ml. Soluble CD40 was highly elevated in all patients with impaired renal function. HD patients (n = 22) had up to 100-fold elevated sCD40 levels with a mean concentration of 8.32 +/- 4.11 ng/ml, whereas CAPD patients (n = 10) had considerably lower levels of sCD40 with a mean of 3.58 +/- 2.40 ng/ml. A strong correlation between sCD40 and serum creatinine levels was noted in CRF patients (n = 66). The highly elevated levels of sCD40 may point to the involvement of CD40 and its ligand CD40L in the clinical manifestation of uraemic immunodeficiency.