The influence of rehydration conditions on the recovery of Escherichia coli K-12 was studied. The results showed that the osmotic pressure gradient of rehydration shock realized before plating greatly affected cell viability. When rehydration occurred quickly from an hyperosmotic level of 133 MPa in glycerol solution before slow rehydration by plating on an agar surface to reach initial osmotic pressure (1.4 MPa), bacterial viability was strongly related to the intensity of the hypo-osmotic gradient used. Rehydration to 107 MPa resulted in a survival ratio of 41%, whereas strong rehydration to 1.4 MPa resulted in only 0.7% survival. These studies also demonstrated the influence of the rehydration kinetic on cell recovery. An optimal rehydration rate of 0.136 MPa x s(-1) increased cell recovery by a factor of 40 when compared with the faster and slower rates of 131.6 MPa x s(-1) and 0.006 MPa x s(-1), respectively.