The relationship between transplant viability and liver function has been examined. Wistar rat livers were preserved at 4°C for increasing intervals and then transplanted into Wistar rat recipients. Two critical times were identified, the longest preservation period with 100% transplantation success (4 hr) and the shortest preservation period with 100% transplant failure (8 hr). The comparable critical times were also identified in livers preserved at 37°C (1 hr and 2 hr). Liver functions were studied by the isolated perfused liver technique in other rat livers stored at 4°C or 37°C for the critical times. Two liver function tests, AST and LDH concentration in perfusate, discriminated between viable and nonviable livers across as well as within preservation groups. AST gave the best separation between viable and nonviable livers. Some functions such as ALT concentration in perfusate separated viable from non viable allografts only within preservation groups. Other liver functions were more sensitive to preservation temperature than allograft viability. Oxygen consumption after cold preservation for either critical time was about twice control levels. Urea production was far below control levels in warm-preserved livers but almost normal in cold-preserved livers. Our results indicate that AST release into perfusate can be used as a screening technique to optimize preservation methods, reserving transplantation for confirming the most promising results.