Cytokine gene transcription has been analyzed by direct analysis of RNA obtained from mouse heterotopic cardiac transplants. The level of expression of the cytokine genes was assessed using semiquantitative polymerase chain reaction (PCR). Expression of the cytokines investigated fell into three groups. The first group included interleukin 1 beta (IL-1 beta), IL-5, IL-6, and interferon gamma (IFN gamma). These genes were expressed in normal heart tissue at low level and were upregulated following both syngeneic and allogeneic transplantation. Genes in the second group (IL-1 alpha, IL-3) were not expressed at detectable levels in normal heart but were induced following either syngeneic or allogeneic heart grafting. IL-2, IL-4, and tumor necrosis factor beta (IFN beta) comprised the third group and these cytokines were expressed only in allogeneic grafts after transplantation.