CD28(-)CD4(+) T-cell subpopulation is expanded in kidney allograft patients with long graft survival. To seek for the roles of CD28(-)CD4(+) T cells in the long-term acceptance of kidney allografts, we characterized this population by analyzing cell surface molecules, TCR V(beta) repertoire, mixed lymphocyte reaction (MLR), and cytokine production. The number of CD28(-)CD4(+) T cells increased correlatively with time after transplantation in this group of patients. The CD28(-)CD4(+) T cells did not express detectable levels of CD25, CD69, V(alpha)24, or CTLA-4 but expressed heterogeneous amounts of CD45 RA on the surface. Freshly sorted CD28(-)CD4(+) T cells revealed a restricted V(beta) repertoire, whereas the V(beta) usage of CD28(+)CD4(+) T cells from the same patients was much diversified. Expression levels of TGF-beta and IFNgamma gene were significantly higher in the CD28(-) CD4(+) T cells than in the CD28(+)CD4(+) T cells from the kidney allograft patients. These findings suggest that an oligoclonal CD28(-) CD4(+) T-cell population is continuously activated in patients with long allograft survival, which may be linked with the long-term acceptance.