A comparative study of 24 hr preservation at 4 degrees C of excised rat livers with Euro-Collins and hydroxyethyl starch-free University of Wisconsin (UWm) solutions has been conducted based on the assessment of (1) the cellular energy status determined by 31P NMR spectroscopy and (2) cellular injury estimated from the loss of purine compounds (inosine, hypoxanthine, xanthine, and uric acid) during cold ischemia and reperfusion measured by HPLC, the leakage of intracellular enzymes, and the modifications of parenchyma established by light microscopy. Recovery of nucleosides di- and triphosphate was greater in the UWm group (80 +/- 6% vs. 58 +/- 6%) while inorganic phosphate formation was comparatively reduced. During hypothermic storage, the UWm groups generated a higher amount of inosine and hypoxanthine (in relation to the presence of adenosine in the protective solution) while no xanthine or uric acid was detected due to the inhibitory effect of allopurinol. Conversely, large quantities of xanthine and uric acid were found in the reperfusate of the EC group, pinpointing the cytotoxic role of oxygen-derived free radicals in the generation of cellular damage, as also illustrated by a higher aspartate aminotransferase leakage in the EC group (devoid of allopurinol and glutathione. Light microscopy indicated no histological alterations in the UWm group and mild alterations in the EC group that showed ballooning of hepatocytes (no lactobionate and raffinose in EC) and an alternation of clarifications and eosinophilic condensations. This study clearly confirms and illustrates the overall superiority of UWm solution in liver transplant preservation.