The relation between adenine nucleotide liver concentrations and the viability of liver allografts after cold preservation and warm ischemia was studied. A rat model was used with storage times defined in terms of allograft viability. Livers were excised and stored for 4 hr at 4°C or 1 hr at 37°C (viable if transplanted) or for 8 hr at 4°C or 2 hr at 37°C (not viable if transplanted) in a solution containing 0.9% NaCl and 2 mM CaCl2. Adenine nucleotide, malondialdehyde, and glutathione concentrations were measured in liver biopsies at the end of the storage periods and in control livers. During cold preservation, ATP concentrations decline, but degradation is largely halted at AMP, and this is independent of the length of storage or viability of the allograft. Graft failure is not due to lack of availability of intramitochondrial substrate (AMP) for rephosphorylation to adenosine triphospLate (ATP), nor is it likely that provision of such substrate will be helpful. On the other hand, with warm ischemia, degradation to inosine, hypoxanthine and xanthine occurs and nonviable livers develop higher levels of xanthine than viable ones; in fact, xanthine concentrations provide 100% discrimination between viable and nonviable warm preserved livers. Malondialdehyde concentrations were also significantly greater in the warm preserved nonviable livers, indicating that some lipid peroxidation may occur even before reperfusion of allografts. Glutathione concentrations were similar in all experimental groups.