Epithelial-to-mesenchymal transition (EMT) of tubular epithelial cells (TECs) may participate in the pathogenesis of renal fibrosis. We performed a prospective study of EMT markers in protocol biopsies obtained 3 months after engraftment from 56 patients who received deceased donor kidneys and who had stable renal function. The presence of EMT was examined, and quantified by immunohistochemical staining for vimentin and translocation of beta-catenin to the cytoplasm. EMT status was defined as the presence of EMT markers in > or = 10% of TECs. EMT features were virtually absent in implantation biopsies, whereas 41% of the grafts were EMT-positive in the absence of advanced chronic allograft nephropathy. Thirteen patients (23%) had borderline changes or acute rejection. EMT features were more frequent in these patients than in those with normal kidney grafts (vimentin expression, p = 0.003; beta-catenin translocation, p = 0.002). EMT in grafts corresponded with elevated serum creatinine of the donor before the recovery of kidney (p = 0.02) and longer cold ischemia time (p = 0.02). In contrast, the donor age had no influence on the expression of EMT markers. These results suggest that EMT is an early and frequent phenomenon in kidney transplants that could be triggered by immunological and/or ischemic tubular injury.