Fatty liver is a common predisposing risk factor for postoperative liver failure and accounts for most discarded livers during triage of donors. We investigated the effect of heat shock preconditioning (HPc) on recipient survival in a rat fatty liver transplantation model. Fatty liver donor rats were exposed to brief whole-body hyperthermia (10 minutes at 42.5 degrees C) and allowed to recover. HPc induced heat shock proteins (HSPs) (HSP72, HSP90, and heme oxygenase [HO]-1) in donor livers, with levels peaking 12 to 48 hours after HPc. Subsequently, donor livers were harvested 24 hours after HPc, placed in cold storage for 10 hours, and transplanted into normal rats. At 3 hours posttransplantation, HPc reduced serum liver enzymes in the recipients and almost completely suppressed the release of tumor necrosis factor (TNF)-alpha and interleukin (IL)-10. Histologic evaluation 3 and 24 hours after transplantation showed that HPc significantly reduced hepatic inflammation and hepatocellular necrosis without affecting the steatotic appearance of hepatocytes. One week after transplantation, control non-heat-shocked and heat-shocked fatty liver recipients exhibited survival rates of less than 10% and more than 80%, respectively. The evaluation of the survival of recipients receiving fatty livers at different times after HPc showed that the protective effect of HPc was significant when donor livers were transplanted 3 to 48 hours after HPc, with the maximum effect seen 6 to 48 hours after HPc. In conclusion, HPc is a promising avenue to salvage rejected donor fatty livers and enhance the survival rate of fatty liver recipients. We estimate that this technique could increase the annual donor pool by 600 livers.