The aim of this study was to investigate the relationships between inflammation and adhesion molecules in long-term kidney transplantation. We measured serum concentrations of tumor necrosis factor-alpha (TNFalpha) and intercellular and vascular cell adhesion molecules (ICAM-1 and VCAM-1) in 35 renal transplant recipients (mean age of transplantation 5 +/- 3 years) and in 35 chronic renal insufficiency (CRI) patients; twenty-six healthy subjects were enrolled as controls. Transplanted showed higher values than controls of TNFalpha (P < 0.0001), ICAM-1 (P < 0.0001), and VCAM-1 (P < 0.0001). CRI group as well exhibited higher concentrations than controls of TNFalpha (P < 0.0001), ICAM-1 (P < 0.0001), and VCAM-1 (P < 0.0001). Transplanted and CRI patients had similar blood pressure and renal function levels, and TNFalpha, ICAM-1, and VCAM-1 were not significantly different in the two groups. In transplanted group ICAM-1, VCAM-1, and TNFalpha correlated negatively and independently with glomerular filtration rate (GFR) -P < 0.00001 for all. TNFalpha as well correlated with ICAM-1 and VCAM-1 (P < 0.001, respectively). In CRI group, TNFalpha correlated with serum creatinine, ICAM-1, and VCAM-1 (P = 0.01 for all). In conclusion, in long-term renal transplantation, the level of kidney function and both inflammation and endothelial activation are closely related. In fact, the multiple regression analysis demonstrated that the level of kidney insufficiency and the levels of the studied molecules were independently associated.