Post-transplant monitoring of cellular immunity has the potential to guide alterations in medical therapy. To this end, our laboratory has developed an enzyme-linked immunosorbent spot (ELISPOT) assay for detection of peripheral blood alloimmunity. Peripheral blood lymphocytes (PBLs) from normal volunteers and from renal allograft recipients were tested against donor stimulator cells for their ability to respond in 'one-way' cytokine ELISPOT assays. T cell depletion of donor spleen or PBLs eliminated donor cell cytokine secretion while preserving the ability of these cells to present allo-antigen to responding T cells. Alloreactive IFN-gamma-producing PBLs derive from the memory T cell pool and are readily detectable in recipients of renal allografts taking immunosuppressant medications. A significant expansion of IFN-gamma-producing donor-reactive memory PBLs was detectable at 4-6 months post-transplant in those who had experienced an acute rejection episode compared with those with a stable post-transplant course. The data demonstrate the feasibility of repeated post-transplant monitoring of allograft recipients, and provide the foundation for improving the care of human transplant recipients through rational clinical decision-making based on measures of immune function.