Mycophenolate mofetil is an ester prodrug of the active immunosuppressant mycophenolic acid. It is a noncompetitive, selective and reversible inhibitor of inosine monophosphate dehydrogenase, an important enzyme in the de novo synthesis of guanosine nucleotides in T and B lymphocytes. Mycophenolate mofetil and/or mycophenolic acid inhibit the proliferation of lymphocytes and the production of antibodies induced by a variety of mitogens and antigens. Mycophenolate mofetil is also active in several animal models of transplantation and has produced effects in animals that indicate that it may inhibit the chronic rejection process. Mycophenolate mofetil has been compared with azathioprine or placebo in 3 large, randomised, double-blind, multicentre trials as part of combination immunosuppression therapy with cyclosporin and corticosteroids. Compared with either placebo or azathioprine (1 to 2 mg/kg/day or 100 to 150 mg/day), mycophenolate mofetil 2 or 3 g/day was associated with a significantly lower proportion of patients experiencing acute rejection or treatment failure during the first 6 months after transplantation. Mycophenolate mofetil also tended to be associated with a lower proportion of patients who required a full course of antirejection therapy. However, the proportion of patients who died or who had graft loss was similar between all of the treatment groups. There are currently no data regarding the effects of mycophenolate mofetil on long term patient or graft survival, which are important clinical outcomes in assessing its place in the management of renal transplantation. Clinical trials are also needed to evaluate mycophenolate mofetil in specific patient populations (e.g. repeat renal transplant patients or highly sensitised patients), to determine its efficacy in alternative immunosuppressive protocols and to investigate its use in the transplantation of other solid organs. In summary, mycophenolate mofetil appears to be an attractive new agent in the prevention of graft rejection in renal transplant recipients that has shown superior efficacy to azathioprine. Although long term clinical outcome data are required, mycophenolate is a potentially important advance in transplant immunosuppression.