Patients awaiting solid organ transplantation who are highly sensitized to HLA antigens remain problematic in terms of finding compatible (crossmatch-negative) donors. We have used intravenous gammaglobulin (IVIG; 10% Gamimune N) to determine both its efficacy in reducing panel-reactive antibodies in vitro and the prognostic value of the in vitro testing for in vivo efficacy. In 18 patients with PRAs ranging from 40 to 100% (mean: 77%) we found a reduction in absolute PRA of 4-70% (mean decrease: 35%; percent inhibition: 4-100%; residual PRA 0-96%). In 7 cases, the residual antibody specificity could be easily determined and often appeared to include a short HLA-A2. This was independent of A2 subtype as determined by PCR-SSOP. Testing the IVIG on a panel of 21 HLA reagent alloantisera resulted in heterogeneous inhibitory patterns (7 complete, 3 partial, 8 differential, 3 none) independent of titer or specificity. In vivo administration to a 13-year-old kidney patient awaiting retransplant resulted in a PRA drop from 95% to 15% and successful retransplantation (now 11 months post-transplant). More impressively, successive in vivo administration of IVIG to a sensitized (anti-HLA-A2, A68, A69; B57, B58) heart transplant candidate resulted in successful transplantation with an A2+ histoincompatible heart. The patient experienced only one subclinical humoral rejection in the first 5 months posttransplant. Biochemical studies to determine the effective component of IVIG show that it is the IgG fraction and not soluble antigen or the minor IgM or IgA contaminants that is responsible. This suggests an antiidiotypic modulation of anti-HLA antibodies in vitro and in vivo.