Cyclosporin is an immunosuppressive agent with a narrow therapeutic index. The total concentration of cyclosporin in blood is usually monitored to guide dosage adjustment and to compensate for substantial interindividual and intraindividual variability in cyclosporin pharmacokinetics. Cyclosporin is a highly lipophilic molecule and widely distributes into blood, plasma and tissue components. It mainly accumulates in fat-rich organs, including adipose tissue and liver. In blood, it binds to erythrocytes in a saturable fashion that is dependent on haematocrit, temperature and the concentration of plasma proteins. In plasma, it binds primarily to lipoproteins, including high-density, low-density and very-low-density lipoprotein, and, to a lesser extent, albumin. The unbound fraction of cyclosporin in plasma (CsA(fu)) expressed as a percentage is approximately 2%. It has been shown that both the pharmacokinetic and pharmacodynamic properties of cyclosporin are related to its binding characteristics in plasma. Furthermore, there is some evidence to indicate that the unbound concentration of cyclosporin (CsA(U)) has a closer association with both kidney and heart allograft rejection than the total (bound + unbound) concentration. However, the measurement of CsA(fu) is inherently complex and cannot easily be performed in a clinical setting. Mathematical models that calculate CsA(fu), and hence CsA(U), from the concentration of plasma lipoproteins may be a more practical option, and should provide a more accurate correlate of effectiveness and toxicity of this drug in transplant recipients than do conventional monitoring procedures. In conclusion, the distribution characteristics of cyclosporin in blood, plasma and various tissues are clinically important. Further investigations are needed to verify whether determination of CsA(U) improves the clinical management of transplant recipients.