The objective of this study was to determine whether Kupffer cells contribute to parenchymal and endothelial cell damage induced by ischemia- reperfusion in perfused rat livers. Parenchymal and endothelial cell injury were determined by measuring activities of lactate dehydrogenase (LDH) and purine nucleoside phosphorylase (PNP), respectively, in the effluent perfusate of livers subjected to 60 min of low flow ischemia followed by 30 min of reperfusion. Upon reperfusion, LDH and PNP activities increased significantly within the first 10 min of reperfusion and remained elevated over control values throughout the duration of reperfusion. Pretreatment with gadolinium chloride, an inhibitor of Kupffer cell function, significantly decreased LDH and PNP efflux during reperfusion by approximately 60% and 50%, respectively. When Kupffer cells were stimulated by vitamin A pretreatment, PNP efflux was doubled during reperfusion, Vitamin E pretreatment attenuated LDH and PNP release by approximately 70% during reperfusion compared to enzyme release in untreated livers. Moreover, the water-soluble antioxidants superoxide dismutase and desferrioxamine reduced reperfusion injury, whereas catalase had no effect on enzyme release. These results demonstrate that superoxide anions released from Kupffer cells are involved in oxidative damage to endothelial cells as well as hepatocytes during the early stages of hepatic reperfusion.