Black end-stage renal disease patients may present as an immunologically higher-risk group for renal allograft transplantation than white ESRD patients. To test this hypothesis, we correlated graft survivals in 124 black and 241 white cyclosporine-prednisone-treated primary cadaveric renal allograft recipients with pre-Tx nonspecific immune responder status (strong vs. weak immune responders), donor-recipient-specific MLC responsiveness, HLA match, and blood transfusion (BT) history. One-, 2- and 3-year patient survival rates of 95%, 94%, and 94% were identical for both groups. However, the 1-, 2-, 3-year graft survival rates for white recipients of 82%, 79%, and 75% were significantly higher than the 70%, 62%, and 55% rates for black recipients (P less than 0.01 for each, respectively). Pre-Tx nonspecific immune response values for blacks were significantly (P less than 0.01) higher than for whites (38% vs. 28% for active T cell; 1.8 vs. 1.3 for TH:TS ratio; 28,581 c.p.m. vs. 14,870 c.p.m. for spontaneous blastogenesis; and a stimulation index (SI) of 34 vs. 20 for panel mixed lymphocyte culture). Additionally, the specific recipient-donor MLC (SI) for black recipients was significantly greater than the specific recipient-donor MLC for white recipients (MLC SI of 40 vs. 18, P less than 0.01). Blacks present as pre-Tx strong immune responders with a greater frequency than whites (90% vs. 66%, P less than 0.01). Moreover, black strong responders experience a poorer 1-year graft survival than white strong responders (67% vs. 80%, P less than 0.01). Even though the pre-Tx BT histories of white and black ESRD patients studied herein were comparable, the immunoregulatory effect of pre-Tx BT was different in white vs. black patients. A significant reduction in TH:TS ratio was observed when comparing 0 vs. 1-4 pre-Tx white patient BT groups, whereas significant changes in TH:TS ratios were not observed until after comparing 0 vs. greater than or equal to 5 pre-Tx black patient BT groups. HLA matching and pre-Tx BT had no impact on improving the graft survivals of these CsA-Pred-treated white or black recipients. These data, therefore, support the hypothesis that black recipients present as an immunologically higher-risk group than white recipients.