Human recombinant Erythropoietin (rHuEpo) has recently been shown to be a potent protector of ischemia- reperfusion injury in warm-liver ischemia. Significant enhancement of hepatic regeneration and survival after large volume partial hepatic resection has also been demonstrated. It was the aim of this study to evaluate the capacities of rHuEpo in the setting of rat liver transplantation. One-hundred-and-twenty Wistar rats were used: 60 recipients received liver transplantation following donor organ treatment (60 donors) with either 1000 IU rHuEpo or saline injection (controls) into portal veins (cold ischemia 18 h, University of Wisconsin (UW) solution). Recipients were allocated to two groups, which either received 1000 IU rHuEpo at reperfusion or an equal amount of saline (control). Animals were sacrificed at defined time-points (2, 4.5, 24, 48 h and 7 days postoperatively) for analysis of liver enzymes, histology [hematoxylin-eosin (HE) staining, periodic acid Schiff staining (PAS)], immunostaining [terminal deoxynucleotidyl transferase dUTP nick end labeling (TUNEL), Hypoxyprobe] and real-time polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) of cytokine mRNA (IL-1, IL-6). Lactate dehydrogenase (LDH) and alanine aminotransferase (ALT) values were significantly reduced among the epo-treated animals 24 and 48 h after liver transplantation (LT). The TUNEL and Hypoxyprobe analyses as well as necrotic index evaluation displayed significant reduction of apoptosis and necrosis in rHuEpo-treated graft livers. Erythropoietin reduces ischemia-reperfusion injury after orthotopic liver transplantation in rats.