Acute allograft rejection is characterized by infiltration of the donor organ by host lymphoid cells, predominantly T lymphocytes. However, the site of proliferation and clonal expansion of alloreactive T lymphocytes is not well defined in man. A group of normal transbronchial biopsies (TBB, n=9) from clinically well lung transplant recipients was compared to TBB showing acute rejection (at least grade A2, n=9), using CD3- and Ki67-specific antibodies to double-label proliferating T lymphocytes. Few double-labeled lymphocytes were present in the normal biopsies (range, 0-3 cells). However, five of the rejection biopsies contained significant numbers of proliferating T lymphocytes (range, 19-47; Fisher's exact test; P=0.029). Furthermore, this positive group contained all three cases of grade A3 rejection in the study, as well as a case with persistent grade A2 rejection on follow-up biopsy. These data demonstrate that T lymphocytes do proliferate in transplanted human lungs; such proliferation is associated with more severe rejection.