The fate of orthotopic corneal transplants has been studied in inbred strains of mice. Using a surgical technique that achieves > 95% success of syngeneic cornea grafts, it was determined that a high proportion of orthotopic cornea allografts were accepted indefinitely, irrespective of the degree of immunogenetic disparity between graft donor and recipient. Grafts that succumbed to irreversible rejection developed extensive corneal edema and intrastromal neovascularization as harbingers of corneal opacity and endothelial cell failure. The highest rate of rejection occurred among grafts that confronted their hosts with multiple minor histocompatibility antigens, with or without major histocompatibility antigens. Much lower rates of rejection (< 35%) were observed when the donors of the grafts differed from recipients at class I and/or class II major histocompatibility loci. Corneal grafts that confronted their hosts with class II MHC alloantigens alone experienced early, acute inflammation, and eventually developed stomal neovascularization, but only a small minority of these grafts were eventually destroyed. Allogeneic corneas that were transplanted orthotopically into eyes of presensitized mice were uniformly subjected to an acute rejection process that produced opacity within three weeks; however, in a minority of instances, the inflammation and opacity subside, and after eight weeks the grafts displayed a clear, nonvascularized appearance. The high rate of success of even grossly histoincompatible orthotopic corneal allografts in mice resembles the extraordinary success of unmatched allogeneic corneas transplanted into human eyes. The results are discussed in terms of the possible mechanisms that permit orthotopic corneal allografts to enjoy significantly better survival than orthotopic grafts of other types of solid tissues.