To scrutinize the effect of the immunosuppressant on acute allograft rejection as related to the intracellular signal transduction, heterotopic cardiac transplantation was performed from DA rat to Lewis rat with/without FK506. In the experimental group, recipients were given FK506 intramuscularly for 5 days. The control group received placebo. Allograft survivals were compared between two groups. For the assay of mitogen-activated protein kinase (MAPKs) families, activator protein-1 (AP-1) and nuclear factor-kappaB (NF-kappaB) in the left ventricular free wall (LV) and septum (SEP) of the grafts, rats were sacrificed on POD 5 (n=5 in each group). Extracellular signal-regulated kinase (ERK) and p38MAPK were measured using Western blot analysis. AP-1 and NF-kappaB DNA binding activities were measured by electrophoretic mobility shift assay. FK506 prolonged allograft survival (6.5 vs 31 days), and suppressed activation of myocardial MAPKs (ERK: 66% in LV and 67% in SEP, p38MAPK: 62% in LV and 72% in SEP), AP-1 (24% in LV and 18% in SEP), and NF-kappaB (41% in LV and 20% in SEP) (the mean value of activities in the control group was represented as 100%). These results suggest that the signal transduction pathways may play important roles in acute allograft rejection in rat cardiac transplantation.