Ischemia-reperfusion procedures induced severe hepatic damages owing to different processes related to hypoxia and reoxygenation (H/R) phases, including the consecutive oxygen free radical (OFR) release. Stress-activated protein kinases (SAPKs) could be activated by extracellular stimuli. The aim of this study was to show whether H/R stress conditions could stimulate these kinases, and especially c-jun-N-terminal kinase (JNK1/SAPK1), to reveal a potential role of JNK1/SAPK1 in the control of hepatocyte apoptosis. Primary cultured rat hepatocytes, isolated from other liver cells and blood flow, were subjected to warm and cold hypoxia-reoxygenation phases mimicking surgical and transplant conditions. The activation status of SAPKs was evaluated by immunoprecipitation or Western-blotting experiments, whereas apoptosis was assessed by measuring caspase activation and internucleosomal DNA fragmentation in vitro and by TUNEL reaction, in vivo. Hypoxia, and especially hypoxia-reoxygenation, significantly increased JNK1/SAPK1 activation in cultured hepatocytes. Either in warm or cold conditions, OFR scavengers (N-Acetylcystein, Di-Phenyleneiodonium, Deferoxamine) decreased this stimulation. Warm ischemia-reperfusion also led to JNK activation. Hypoxia and especially hypoxia-reoxygenation induced programmed cell death in vivo and in vitro. This last phenomenon was inhibited when hepatocytes were treated with SB 202190, which was described as a potent inhibitor of p38 and JNK activities. Altogether, these results confirmed that JNK1/SAPK1 was activated during the hypoxia-reoxygenation process, and that this activity participated in the onset of the apoptosis program.