Abstract: Our previous studies have shown that a spontaneous functional tolerance develops in a rat model of lung transplantation (WKY→F344). The tolerance observed in this model may be due to the minor histocompatible differences in this combination, however, the possibility of a tolerogenic effect related specifically to the lung allograft must be considered. To further examine this model, the effect of pre-transplant donor-specific spleen cell transfusions (DSTs) was examined on the functional tolerance state seen in this model. F344 rats received WKY spleen cells on days -45 and -30 before lung transplantations. Control F344 rats received lung transplants without DSTs. Recipients in both groups were killed on day 7, 14, 21 and 49 post-transplant, and allograft rejection (AR) was graded histologically (stage 0-IV). Intragraft cytokine gene transcripts were examined on day 7 and 14 post-transplant using reverse transcriptase-polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) techniques to investigate the underlying immunological events occurring in each group. In addition, allogeneic (WKY) and third party (BN) skin grafts were placed on lung recipients at day 35 post-transplant to evaluate the development of systemic tolerance. It was seen that control animals showed moderate to severe lymphocytic infiltrations (stage II-III AR) in the first 3 weeks followed by spontaneous recovery with stage I-II AR on day 49. In marked contrast, DST-treated animals showed more aggressive AR with severe lymphocytic infiltration and haemorrhagic infarction (stage III-IV AR) by day 14-21, without any evidence of recovery on day 49. WKY skin grafts showed prolonged survival in control animals, but were promptly rejected in DST-treated animals. Intragraft cytokine gene expression in control animals was characterized by no or weak expression of IL-2 and high IL-10, while DST-treated animals showed high levels of IL-2 transcripts. IL-2:IL-10 and IL-2:IL-4 ratios were significantly increased in DST-treated animals compared with controls on day 7 post-transplant. It was concluded that pre-transplant DSTTs did not enhance allograft survival, but actually induced AR and ablated any immunological benefit of the lung allograft on induction of tolerance in the WKY→F344 lung transplant model. It was found that the DST-induced AR was associated with a deviation of cytokine immune responses from a predominant Th2 to Th1 profile characterized by increased IL-2 gene expression in the allografts. We also conclude that factors other than the degree of histocompatibility matching, such as the route and timing of alloantigen exposure, and the amount or nature of alloantigens associated specifically with lung allografts, are involved in deviating native immune responses toward acceptance or rejection of lung allografts in this model of lung transplantation.