The cytolytic activity of T lymphocytes infiltrating renal allografts from recipients undergoing episodes of acute cellular rejection was studied. These T-cell populations, composed of both CD4 + and CD8 + cells, demonstrated significant cytolytic activity against both donor-derived KCLs and B-LCLs. In five of 21 biopsy-derived lines greater cytolytic activity was measured against donor KCLs compared to donor B-LCLs, suggesting the presence of kidney antigen-specific, MHC-restricted clones. Clones developed by stimulation with donor B-LCLs lysed both donor B-LCLs and KCLs while clones developed on donor KCLs as stimulator cells showed tissue specificity. Three of 26 clones recognized tissue-specific antigens in the context of donor MHC class I antigens lysing donor KCLs but not B-LCLs. These data demonstrate that a subpopulation of T cells recognizing kidney-specific antigens are present in biopsies of renal allograft recipients undergoing acute cellular rejection. This subpopulation of tissue-specific cytotoxic T lymphocytes may prove to contribute significantly to the pathology of allograft rejection.