Despite cytolytic induction therapy and triple-drug immunosuppression, acute allograft rejection continues to cause important morbidity and occasional death after heart transplantation. Between November 1, 1988, and May 1, 1990, 24 patients received methotrexate pulse therapy for recurrent or persistent acute rejection despite methylprednisolone, OKT3, or antithymocyte globulin therapy. Methotrexate was administered as a daily oral dose of 2.5 to 15mg on 1 day/week over 3 weeks (longer in 15 patients because of either severe leukopenia with temporary interruption of therapy or recurrent rejection during methotrexate therapy) with reduction or discontinuation of azathioprine. Rejection incidence was reduced from 1.1 episodes/patient month before methotrexate therapy to 0.2 episodes/patient month after completion of therapy (p=0.0001). Two patients died within 3 months after treatment, one of cytomegalovirus pneumonia and one of lymphoma. Mean white blood count (WBC) fell from 6900 per ml before methotrexate therapy to 3700 during the first month of methotrexate therapy (p=0.0005). The lowest WBC typically occurred about 3 weeks after starting methotrexate therapy, and a transient WBC of less than 1000/ml developed in seven patients. By multivariable analysis, the WBC 1 month after starting methotrexate therapy was significantly related to greater bone marrow suppression (lower WBC), immediately before methotrexate therapy, greater overall immunosuppression (more rejection episodes) during the 3 months before methotrexate therapy, and a higher total dose of methotrexate. The following conclusions can be drawn: (1) Methotrexate is a useful adjunct in the treatment of recurrent or persistent rejection. (2) Important and severe leukopenia may occur during methotrexate therapy; its onset may be delayed; and modification of this protocol may be advisable to minimize this complication.