Glomerular lesions are considered one of the more detrimental pathologic changes associated with chronic rejection of renal allografts. To elucidate potential pathophysiologic mechanisms associated with transplant glomerulopathy, we examined the expression of acidic fibroblast growth factor (FGF-1) and its high-affinity receptors (FGFR) in both relevant renal transplant controls (n=5) and tissue from patients (n=19) who underwent nephrectomy following graft loss secondary to chronic rejection. In situ immunohistochemical analyses demonstrated minimal staining and distribution of FGFR and FGF-1, which was localized to the mesangial matrix in glomeruli from normal human kidneys. In situ hybridization failed to detect the presence of FGF-1 mRNA in control tissue. In contrast, each stage of the developing glomerular lesion associated with chronic rejection demonstrated the exaggerated appearance of FGF-1 protein in visceral and parietal epithelial cells. Intense staining for FGF-1 protein did not correlate with the increased appearance of FGF-1 mRNA, which was restricted to circulating inflammatory cells. Glomeruli in kidneys with findings of chronic rejection also exhibited increased immunodetection of both FGFR and PCNA in mesangial and epithelial cells. Immunogold labeling of chronically rejected visceral epithelial cells revealed both cytoplasmic and nuclear/localization of FGF- 1, thereby establishing mitogenic potential of the growth factor. The enhanced appearance of both biologically active FGF-1 and FGFR suggests that this polypeptide may serve as an important mediator of growth responses associated with glomerular lesion development during chronic rejection.