Transplant immunosuppression using either cyclosporine (CsA) or tacrolimus (FK506) leads to renal vasoconstriction and nephrotoxicity. Despite producing similar effects within the kidney and blood vessels, clinical hypertension occurs less frequently with tacrolimus during the first year after transplantation, compared with CsA. To examine the role of steroid dose in early posttransplant hypertension, we measured blood pressure and kidney function in liver transplant recipients treated with tacrolimus and either high-dose (TAC-HI-P, n = 19) or low-dose (TAC-LO-P,n = 20) prednisone, compared with CsA-treated recipients (n = 29) receiving prednisone doses similar to the TAC-HI-P group. At 1 month, hypertension occurred more often with CsA (72%) than with TAC-HI-P (42%, P < 0.05) or TAC-LO-P (30%, P < 0.05). By 4 months after transplantation, hypertension developed in nearly twice as many TAC-HI-P (63%) as TAC-LO-P patients (32%, P < 0.05), with no difference between TAC-HI-P and CsA (86%, NS). Daily prednisone dose at 1 month closely paralleled cumulative steroid dose in the first month in the TAC-HI-P and TAC-LO-P groups. Fourteen of 19 TAC-HI-P patients (74%) required bolus steroids for treatment of rejection within the first month, compared with 3/20 (15%) TAC-LO-P and 10/29 (34%) CsA recipients. Glomerular filtration rate fell from pretransplant levels at 1 month and 4 months to the same degree in CsA, TAC-HI-P, and TAC-LO-P patients. These results demonstrate a central role for steroid dose in the rate of onset of hypertension early after liver transplantation using tacrolimus immunosuppression. Both daily dose and cumulative dosage, including bolus treatment for rejection, may impact on the development of hypertension. Since prevalence rates rise to levels comparable to CsA by 24 months regardless of steroid dose, hypertension after liver transplant may be mediated by different mechanisms at different stages of the posttransplant course.