Previous studies in miniature swine have suggested that the mechanism underlying the spontaneous development of tolerance in one third of one-haplotype class I disparate renal allografts (i.e., ag----ad) involves a relative T cell help deficit at the time of first exposure to antigen. If this hypothesis were correct, then one might expect the administration of an immunosuppressive agent capable of inhibiting lymphokine production during this period to lead to the induction of tolerance to class I MHC antigens in two-haplotype class I mismatched renal allografts (i.e., gg----dd), which are otherwise uniformly and acutely rejected. This hypothesis was tested in eight two-haplotype class I disparate, class II matched donor-recipient pairs, in which recipients were treated with cyclosporine 10 mg/kg, i.v. q.d. for 12 days. This protocol led to the induction of long-term (greater than 100 days) specific tolerance in 100% of recipients, as compared with control animals that rejected grafts in 13.7 +/- 0.9 days (P less than 0.0001). The specificity of tolerance was assessed both in vivo with subsequent skin grafts and in vitro by mixed lymphocyte response (MLR) and cell-mediated lymphocytotoxicity (CML). Survival of donor-specific skin grafts was prolonged compared with skin grafts bearing third-party class I antigens (19.5 +/- 2.0 versus 11.5 +/- 2.0 days, n = 4, P less than 0.05). Tolerant recipients had markedly diminished or absent anti-donor MLR and CML responses, but maintained normal reactivity to third party. Four of eight CsA-treated recipients showed detectable levels of anti-donor IgM, while none demonstrated the presence of anti-donor IgG, which was found in all rejecting controls.