Previous reports have described an association between cytomegalovirus infection and increased donor-specific alloreactivity of bronchoalveolar lavage (BAL) lymphocytes in transplanted lungs and a higher risk of bronchiolitis obliterans due to chronic rejection. We have postulated that during infection, intragraft CMV-specific lymphocytes are activated and release lymphokines that augment cellular rejection. This study deals with an analysis of CMV antigen induced proliferation of 28 BAL lymphocyte and 27 peripheral blood lymphocytes samples from 17 lung transplant patients with or without CMV infection. Kinetic studies of lymphocyte proliferation have shown that CMV infection of the lung allograft is associated with an accelerated response of BAL lymphocytes but not PBL, following in vitro exposure to CMV antigen. These findings indicate an accumulation of primed CMV-specific lymphocytes within the lung allograft during CMV infection. Evidence has also been obtained that primed CMV-specific lymphocytes may persist for months in BAL. We conclude that the CMV antigen induced proliferation assay is useful for studies of CMV infection in transplant patients. © 1992 by Williams and Wilkins.