Prior to 1975 patients with systemic lupus erythematosus were generally not considered candidates for renal transplantation because of concern that immune complex deposition would rapidly destroy the allograft. However, recent evidence suggests that good patient and graft survival rates can be achieved comparable to other renal diseases. Between September 23, 1963 and July 31, 1990, 1070 renal transplants were performed at Washington University Medical Center (WUMC). During this period, 14 patients with SLE (12 female and 2 male) received 16 renal transplants (7 living-related donor [LRD], 1 living-unrelated donor [LURD], and 8 cadaver [CAD]). The mean age at the time of the first transplant was 32.5 +/- 10.3 years. The duration of disease prior to transplant was 88.0 +/- 45.9 months and the duration of hemodialysis prior to transplant was 36.0 +/- 33.7 months. Of these patients, 7/14 (50%) had negative and 3/14 (21%) positive SLE serology pre- and post-transplant, 3/14 (21%) had negative serology pretransplant that became positive posttransplant, and 1/14 (2%) was positive pretransplant and became seronegative posttransplant. Patient survival was 92.8% (13/14), and of the 16 kidneys transplanted 62.5% (10/16) are still functioning with a mean follow-up period of 43.7 +/- 45 months. The current mean serum creatinine was 1.4 +/- 0.26 mg/dl. One noncompliant patient developed recurrent lupus nephritis bringing the total number of cases reported in the literature to seven. The present study demonstrates that patients with SLE can be transplanted with excellent patient and graft survival and function and a low rate of recurrent lupus nephritis. From a review of the literature, there appears to be an association between positive SLE serology pre- and posttransplant and recurrent lupus nephritis.