Publications about liver transplantation (LTX) for autoimmune hepatitis (AIH) have started to emerge, but many issues remain unresolved. We reviewed data on 32 patients transplanted for AIH to determine how pretransplantation and posttransplantation characteristics correlate with recipient outcome, including disease recurrence. Recipients were 37+/- 14 years old; 30 of 32 were women. Most had chronic disease (8 +/- 6 years); 25% had fulminant failure. The majority had ascites (91%), jaundice (88%), elevated prothrombin time (18 +/- 3 seconds), and hypoalbuminemia (2.7 +/- 0.6 g/dL). All had hypergammaglobulinemia (3.0 +/- 1.0 g/dL) and autoantibodies (72% antinuclear, 74% smooth muscle). Only one was HLA A1-B8-DR3 positive. Other autoimmune disorders affected 25% of patients; half improved after transplantation. Actuarial survival was 81% at 1 and 2 years posttransplantation. There was a high frequency of rejection (75% of recipients had 1.7 +/- 0.8 episodes), and 39% of rejections required OKT3. Among 24 recipients with long-term follow-up (27 +/- 14 months), histologically proven recurrent AIH occurred in 25%, 15 +/- 2 months posttransplantation; half (3 patients) required retransplantation 11 +/- 3 months after diagnosis. After retransplantation 2 of 3 patients had re-recurrence within 3 months; 1 received a third LTx. Recurrence occurred in 6 of 18 patients transplanted for chronic disease vs. 0 of 6 transplanted as fulminants (P = not significant [NS]). Patients with and without recurrence had similar rejection profiles. In summary, results of LTx for AIH are excellent. However, AIH patients have a high frequency of rejection and often require OKT3. Furthermore, severe recurrent AIH sometimes develops, particularly in chronic versus fulminant AIH patients and in those already retransplanted for recurrence. Multicenter studies could elucidate the best posttransplantation immunosuppressive regimens for AIH patients.