Ischemia/reperfusion (I/R) injury in liver grafts, which is initiated by cold preservation and is augmented by reperfusion, is a major problem that complicates graft quality, posttransplant patient care, and outcomes of liver transplantation (LT). Kupffer cells (KCs) play important roles in I/R injury; however, little is known about their changes during cold preservation. We examined whether a pretreatment with carbon monoxide (CO), a cytoprotective product of heme degradation, could influence KC activity during cold storage and protect liver grafts against LT-induced I/R injury. In vitro, primary rat KCs were stimulated for 24 hours under hypothermic conditions (4°C, 20% O(2)), with lipopolysaccharide, or under hypoxic conditions (37°C, 5% O(2)) with or without a CO pretreatment. When rat KCs were exposed to hypothermic conditions, they produced reactive oxygen species (ROS), but they did not produce tumor necrosis factor α (TNF-α) or nitric oxide. The preincubation of KCs with CO up-regulated heat shock protein 70 (HSP70) and inhibited ROS generation. When liver grafts from donor rats exposed to CO (250 ppm) for 24 hours were transplanted after 18 hours of cold preservation in University of Wisconsin solution, HSP70 expression increased in these grafts versus control grafts, and serum aspartate aminotransferase and alanine aminotransferase levels as well as necrotic areas and inflammatory infiltrates were significantly reduced after LT. CO-pretreated liver grafts showed less up-regulation of TNF-α and inducible nitric oxide synthase messenger RNA (mRNA) and reduced expression of proapoptotic B cell lymphoma 2-associated X protein mRNA, cleaved caspase-3, and poly(adenosine diphosphate ribose) polymerase. In conclusion, the pretreatment of donors with CO ameliorates LT-associated I/R injury with increased hepatic HSP70 expression, particularly in the KC population.