Abstract The cellular mechanisms involved in islet xenograft rejection remain undetermined. In the present study, the role of interferon-γ (IFN-γ) in rat islet xenograft rejection was examined with the use of IFN-γ-deficient mice as recipients and the results were compared with allografts. There was no significant difference in the survival of intrahepatic islet allografts in IFN-γ-deficient mice compared with that in wild-type mice. In contrast, a marked prolongation of rat islet xenograft survival was obtained in IFN-γ-deficient mice without immunosuppression when compared with the survival in wild-type mice. In order to dissect the difference, infiltrating cells in the liver in association with rejection were examined with flow cytometry. An expansion of CD8 T cells was seen in the liver of wild-type mice rejecting xenografts compared with isografts. There was no significant change in other cell populations. In IFN-γ-deficient mice, the expansion of CD8 T cells was seen in the liver rejecting xenografts; however, the time of development was markedly delayed by the time of rejection. These findings suggest that the acute rejection of rat islet xenografts in mice is IFN-γ-dependent although the exact mechanisms remain unknown.