The aim of this work was to evaluate the effect of intrasplenic hepatocellular transplantation on hepatic encephalopathy in an experimental model of chronic liver failure induced by end-to-side portacaval shunt in the rat. Inbred male Wistar Furth rats were divided into three groups: rats subjected to portacaval shunt (n = 10), rats subjected to portacaval shunt and intrasplenic hepatocellular transplantation of 107 hepatocytes isolated from livers of syngeneic rats (n = 10) and sham-operated rats (n = 10). Behavior tests were performed in a blind fashion at 3 wk, at 2 mo and at 3 mo after surgery. Spontaneous activity and nose-poke exploration by individual rats were studied in automated open field boxes equipped with infrared cells. Each cell beam interruption was automatically recorded on a microcomputer and transformed into a score index (counts/hour). Plasma levels of amino acids, ammonia and total biliary acids were measured. Portacaval shunt rats showed reduced spontaneous activity and nose-poke exploration scores. Intrasplenic hepatocellular transplantation significantly increased spontaneous activity after 2 mo and improved nose-poke exploration after 3 wk. At 3 mo, spontaneous activity and nose-poke exploration in portacaval shunt/intrasplenic hepatocellular transplantation rats were not significantly different from those of sham rats. Increases in plasma ammonia levels after portacaval shunt were not corrected. Amino acid imbalance and bile acid concentration in plasma were partially corrected by intrasplenic hepatocellular transplantation. These data show that intrasplenic hepatocellular transplantation can correct the neurological symptoms of hepatic encephalopathy in an experimental model of chronic liver failure and suggest that intrasplenic hepatocellular transplantation might be of therapeutic interest in chronic liver failure. (HERATOLOGY 1992;15:12-18).