Bioartificial liver (BAL) devices have been developed to treat patients undergoing acute liver failure. One of the most important parameters to consider in designing these devices is the oxygen consumption rate of the seeded hepatocytes which are known to have oxygen consumption rates 10 times higher than most other cell types. Hepatocytes in various culture configurations have been tested in BAL devices including those formats that involve co-culture of hepatocytes with other cell types. In this study, we investigated, for the first time, oxygen uptake rates (OUR)s of hepatocytes co-cultured with 3T3-J2 fibroblasts at various hepatocyte to fibroblast seeding ratios. OURs were determined by measuring the rate of oxygen disappearance using a ruthenium-coated optical probe after closing and sealing the culture dish. Albumin and urea production rates were measured to assess hepatocyte function. Lower hepatocyte density co-cultures demonstrated significantly higher OURs (2 to 3.5-fold) and liver- specific functions (1.6-fold for albumin and 4.5-fold for urea production) on a per cell basis than those seeded at higher densities. Increases in OUR correlated well with increased liver-specific functions. OURs (Vm) were modeled by fitting Michaelis–Menten kinetics and the model predictions closely correlated with the experimental data. This study provides useful information for predicting BAL design parameters that will avoid oxygen limitations, as well as maximize metabolic functions. Biotechnol. Bioeng. 2007;97: 188–199. © 2006 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.