40 recipients of first cadaver kidney transplants were given perioperative donor vertebral bone marrow infusions (DBMC), compared with 100 controls who did not receive donor bone marrow. The immunosuppressive regimen included OKT3, Tacrolimus, and steroid maintenance therapy, and, in some patients, newly introduced mycophenolate mofetil. This report describes the 24-mo actuarial follow-up and several immunological monitoring studies including sequential measurements of donor bone marrow lineage subset chimerism by the recently reported PCR-flow assay. This is a sensitive in situ PCR detection system for donor versus recipient histocompatibility genes as well as cell surface CD epitope markers using flow cytometry. The results indicate (a) the stabilization of the donor CD3+ and CD34+ cells in recipient peripheral blood at levels below 1% between 6 mo and 1 yr postoperatively, with a 10-fold higher level of donor cell chimerism of these lineages in recipient iliac crest marrow; (b) significantly lower levels of chimerism in peripheral blood up to 6 mo postoperatively in patients who had early acute (reversible) rejection episodes compared with those who did not; (c) a higher degree of chimerism seen in patients who were class II MHC HLA DR identical with their donors; (d) the identification of a high proportion of the donor bone marrow derived CD3 dimly staining subset of T cells (to which regulatory functions have been ascribed) in recipient peripheral blood and especially in recipient bone marrow; and (e) an unexpectedly increased susceptibility to clinically significant infections (primarily viral), and even death in the DBMC-infused group, compared with controls, but no graft losses because of rejection in the DBMC-infused group. Mixed lymphocyte culture assays showed a trend toward a greater number of nonspecifically low reactors in the DBMC group, as well as a greater number of nonspecifically high reactors in the controls (P = 0.058). The autologous mixed lymphocyte reaction also indicated a trend towards nonspecific immune activation in the DBMC group. Finally, anti-cytomegaloviral IgG antibody reactivity was significantly inhibited in the DBMC group 4-6 mo postoperatively (P = < 0.05). In the controls, there were no donor cell lineages detected by PCR-flow in the peripheral blood. These rather unexpected findings, indicating a more depressed cellular and humoral immune capacity in the DBMC cadaver kidney transplant recipients in this relatively early follow-up period, are discussed relevant to chimerism, MHC restriction, and suppressor activity brought about by specialized DBMC subsets, which still need to be defined.