All-trans retinoic acid (atRA) is an active metabolite of vitamin A with antioxidant effects. There have been few reports on the effects of atRA on liver ischemia/reperfusion (I/R) injury. Here we have used a rat liver ischemia/ reperfusion model to analyze the protective effect of atRA. Rats were administered with different does (5-15 mg/kg/d) of atRA intraperitoneally (i.p.) for 14 d before I/R. Partial (70%) hepatic ischemia was induced by clamping the hepatic artery, portal vein, and bile duct to the left and median lobes of the liver using a vascular clamp for 60 min, followed by 24 h of reperfusion. The serum aminotransferase (ALT and AST) and hepatic pathology were used to evaluate I/R injury. The results demonstrate that atRA pretreatment attenuates liver I/R injury by inhibiting the release of malondialdehyde (MDA) and by enhancing the activity of superoxide dismutase (SOD). To gain insight into the mechanism of the SOD up-regulation by atRA, the activity of p38 mitogenactivated protein kinase (p38MAKP) and Akt was measured. The results showed that the phosphorylation of p38MAPK and Akt paralleled the expression of manganese superoxide dismutase (MnSOD). That these activities are related was demonstrated by the addition of a p38 inhibitor which markedly decreased MnSOD levels. Taken together, our data reveal that atRA can protect liver from I/R injury by increaseing MnSOD, which is associated with an increased activity of p38MAPK and Akt.