We have studied renal biopsies from three groups of patients to determine if alpha beta T cells or gamma delta T cells are present, and whether their presence is correlated with disease progression in IgA nephropathy (IgAN). Group one comprised thin basement membrane disease biopsies (non-immunological control, N = 7); group two were patients with IgAN and stable renal function one year following biopsy (stable, N = 7); and group three were IgAN patients with rapidly declining renal function after one year (progressive, N = 7). Immunohistochemical staining using monoclonal antibodies (CD3, TcR beta, TcR delta) and molecular studies utilizing polymerase chain reaction amplification of cDNA transcribed from biopsy RNA, with primers specific for either the alpha beta TcR or gamma delta TcR, were undertaken. On immunohistochemistry a significant increase in CD3 + cells in progressive biopsies was seen (vs. control P = 0.002, vs. stable P = 0.002). The progressive biopsies infiltrate consisted of both alpha beta TcR (vs. control P = 0.001, vs. stable P = 0.003) and gamma delta TcR cells (vs. control P = 0.01). The RNA study demonstrated an increase in TcR C alpha transcription in the progressive (vs. control P = 0.003) biopsies. Increased TcR C delta transcription was seen in the progressive group (vs. control P = 0.01, vs. stable P = 0.02). We confirm that the presence of lymphocytes in IgAN biopsies predicts progressive disease. While alpha beta T cells are found in both stable and progressive disease, the presence of gamma delta T cells is only associated with progressive IgAN.