Background. Macrophage migration inhibitory factor (MIF) is a pro-inflammatory cytokine that is a potent activator of macrophages and T cells. Previous studies have shown that local MIF production is increased in acute renal allograft rejection, suggesting that it may play an important role in the rejection process. Aims. To determine if urine and serum MIF concentrations: (1) are increased in acute rejection, and (2) can be used as noninvasive tools to discriminate between acute rejection (AR) and cyclosporine nephrotoxicity (CyA toxicity). Methods. In a prospective study of nine renal allograft patients (five acute rejection and four stable), serial urine MIF concentrations were measured by ELISA in the first 14 days after transplantation. In a retrospective study, MIF concentrations in urine and serum were measured in 24 patients who were biopsied for acute renal transplant dysfunction (11 AR, 13 CyA toxicity). Urine and serum MIF were also measured in 23 stable renal transplant patients and 10 normals. Results. MIF was readily detected in the urine of normal healthy controls (106±61 pg/μmol creatinine). In the prospective study, the urinary MIF concentration was increased substantially on day 1 posttransplantation and subsequently fell in parallel with the serum creatinine. However, urine MIF increased before episodes of biopsy proven acute rejection. The retrospective study showed that urine MIF concentrations in patients with AR were increased 5-fold compared to normal controls (439±313 pg/μmol Cr; P<0.01). In contrast, urine MIF concentrations in CyA toxicity were not significantly different to normal controls (145±119 pg/μmol Cr; P=NS). A marked increase in MIF immunostaining was seen in biopsies of AR, but not in CyA toxicity. No significant differences were evident in serum MIF levels between normals and any transplant patient group. Conclusions. These results suggest that measurement of urine MIF concentration may be useful in monitoring renal transplant patients for acute rejection and as a discriminator from cyclosporine nephrotoxicity.