In the past 2 decades, progressive improvements in the results of organ transplantation as a therapeutic strategy for patients with end-stage organ disease have been achieved due to greater insight into the immunobiology of graft rejection and better measures for surgical and medical management. It is now known that T cells play a central role in the specific immune response of acute allograft rejection. Strategies to prevent T cell activation or effector function are thus all potentially useful for immunosuppression. Standard immunosuppressive therapy in renal transplantation consists of baseline therapy to prevent rejection and short courses of high-dose corticosteroids or monoclonal or polyclonal antibodies as treatment of ongoing rejection episodes. Triple-drug therapy with the combination of cyclosporin, corticosteroids and azathioprine is now the most frequently used immunosuppressive drug regimen in cadaveric kidney recipients. The continuing search for more selective and specific agents has become, in the past decade, one of the priorities for transplant medicine. Some of these compounds are now entering routine clinical practice: among them are tacrolimus (which has a mechanism of action similar to that of cyclosporin), mycophenolate mofetil and mizoribine (which selectively inhibit the enzyme inosine monophosphate dehydrogenase, the rate-limiting enzyme for de novo purine synthesis during cell division), and sirolimus (rapamycin) [which acts on and inhibits kinase homologues required for cell-cycle progression in response to growth factors, like interleukin-2 (IL-2)]. Other new pharmacological strategies and innovative approaches to organ transplantation are also under development. Application of this technology will offer enormous potential not only for the investigation of mechanisms and mediators of graft rejection but also for therapeutic intervention.