A central hypothesis in transplantation biology is that resident leukocytes expressing class II histocompatibility antigens may determine the immunogenicity of an organ. By means of a novel method to deplete the kidney of resident leukocytes, essential fatty acid deficiency (EFAD), this hypothesis was tested in an intact, vascular organ. Kidneys subjected to EFAD and thus depleted of resident Ia-positive macrophages survived and functioned when transplanted across a major histocompatibility antigen barrier in the absence of immunosuppression of the recipient. Control allografts were rejected promptly. Allografts from donors subjected to EFAD normalized their lipid composition and were repopulated with host macrophages by 5 days. Administration of Ia-positive cells at the time of transplantation established that the resident leukocyte depletion induced by EFAD was responsible for the protective effect. These observations may provide insights into the mechanisms underlying tissue immunogenicity and the population of normal tissues with resident leukocytes.