The ability to cryopreserve human liver slices would greatly enhance the opportunities to test potentially hepatotoxic drugs and environmental contaminants as well as the metabolism of these compounds. This study focused on trying to cryopreserve pig and human liver slices. Since the acquisition of human liver tissue is unpredictable and scarce, an animal model was sought to predict problems associated with cryopreservation of human tissue. The pig liver was chosen because of its anatomical and physiological resemblance to human liver. The human liver tissues that did become available were obtained through the Arizona Organ Bank and the National Disease Research Interchange and from surgical liver resections. An in vitro culture system that employed precision-cut liver slices was used in this study. Different types and concentrations of cryoprotectants, cooling rates, and culture media were all tried in an attempt to cryopreserve pig and human liver slices. The viabilities of fresh and cryopreserved liver slices were evaluated using slice K+ retention and protein synthesis. Pig liver slices following cryopreservation retained between 80 and 85% of intracellular K+ content and protein synthesis as compared to controls using 1.4 M Me2SO, a 12 degrees C/min cooling rate, and a rapid rewarming rate of direct submersion of the slice into 37 degrees C fetal calf serum. Human liver slices following cryopreservation retained between 54 and 89% of intracellular K+ content and protein synthesis as compared to controls using the same protocol as for pigs, except that lower cooling rates were giving better results. The large variation seen in cryopreserved human liver slices was due to the length of warm and cold ischemia to which the tissue was exposed before arriving at the laboratory. This study indicated that pig and human liver slices can be cryopreserved and used for future toxicological and metabolic studies.