The immunogenicity of long-surviving, enhanced (AS X AUG)F1 renal allografts retransplanted into secondary AS recipients was restored by the injection of small numbers of donor strain dendritic cells derived from afferent lymph. Whereas 1 X 10(4) to 5 X 10(4) dendritic cells were able to trigger an acute rejection response, neither the passenger volume of donor strain blood nor 5 X 10(6) T or B lymphocytes were able to do so, thereby demonstrating more than a 100-fold difference in immunogenic potency. It is concluded that intrarenal dendritic cells provide the major immunogenic stimulus of a kidney allograft. These results suggest that the antigenic strength of major histocompatibility complex-incompatible tissue correlates with the content of donor strain dendritic cells. They also provide further evidence that antigens of the major histocompatibility complex behave like conventional antigens unless they are on the surface of allogeneic dendritic cells.