Xenogeneic heart transplantation is becoming increasingly attractive because of the shortage of suitable donor organs. In small infants and neonates, for whom suitable human grafts are difficult to obtain, this may play a particularly important role. To evaluate the optimal immunosuppressive regimen after xenogeneic transplantation, cervical heterotopic heart transplantation was performed with vervet monkeys as donors and chacma baboons as recipients. The following groups were investigated: group 1 (n = 9): control, no immunosuppressive medication; group 2 (n = 5): cyclosporine in combination with azathioprine and methylprednisolone; group 3 (n = 6): cyclosporine, azathioprine, and methylprednisolone in combination with antithymocyte globulin for postoperative days 0 to 9; group 4 (n = 7): cyclosporine, azathioprine, and methylprednisolone in combination with 15-deoxyspergualin for postoperative days 0 to 9. Because of severe treatment-related side effects that were observed in group 4, further immunosuppression was modified as follows: group 5 (n = 5): 15-deoxyspergualin was combined with cyclosporine and methylprednisolone only. Acute rejection episodes were diagnosed by cytoimmunologic monitoring on alternate days and weekly myocardial biopsies and were treated with 500 mg methylprednisolone intravenously for 3 to 5 consecutive days. The graft survival after xenogeneic heart transplantation was best in group 3 with 43.3 days compared with 10.3 days in the control group. Still 2.3 acute rejections occurred, which in most cases led to graft failure in these animals. In group 4 the graft survival was prolonged to 20.1 days on average. Only 0.5 acute rejections per animal occurred, but severe gastrointestinal complications and infections were observed that made further experiments necessary to minimize these treatment-related complications. By omitting azathioprine, however, the mean survival rate in the modified treatment group 5 was 35.6 days. Optimalization in immunosuppression thus seems to make temporary xenogeneic heart transplantation possible in the primate model. One must still be aware of hyperacute rejection as a cause of graft failure.