Preformed donor-reactive T cells are relatively resistant to standard immunosuppression and account for an increased incidence of T cell-mediated rejection (TCMR) and inferior kidney allograft outcomes. We analyzed 150 living donor kidney transplant recipients (KTRs) of a first kidney allograft. Ninety-eight ABO-compatible (ABOc) and 52 ABO-incompatible (ABOi) KTRs were included. Samples were collected at 6 time points, before rituximab, before immunoadsorption and pretransplantation, at +1, +2, and +3 months posttransplantation, and donor-reactive T cells were measured by interferon-gamma ELISPOT assay. Twenty of 98 ABOc (20%) and 12 of 52 ABOi KTRs (23%) showed positive pretransplant ELISPOT. Eight of 20 ABOc-KTRs (40%) with positive pretransplant ELISPOT showed TCMR, whereas 17 of 78 ABOc-KTRs (22%) with negative pretransplant ELISPOT did (P = 0.148). Seven of 12 ABOi KTRs (57%) with positive pretransplant ELISPOT showed TCMR, whereas only 3 of 40 ABOi KTRs (8%) with negative pretransplant ELISPOT did (P < 0.001). Interestingly, 6 of 7 ABOi KTRs with positive pretransplant ELISPOT that persists after ABO desensitization developed TCMR. Among 118 KTRs with negative pretransplant ELISPOT, 10 of 72 ABOc-KTRs (14%), but 0 of 46 ABOi KTRs, developed positive posttransplant ELISPOT (P = 0.006). Preformed donor-reactive T cells that persist despite ABO desensitization identify KTRs at highest risk of TCMR. Less de-novo donor-reactive T cells after ABO desensitization may account for less TCMR. Both, the use of rituximab and early initiation of calcineurin inhibitor-based maintenance immunosuppression may contribute to these findings.