An acute-phase response is the systemic reaction of an organism to insult (e.g. infection, trauma and burning). It represents the ‘first line’ of defence of the body to tissue-damaging attacks. In the present work, we used a rat model of an intra-muscular turpentine oil (TO) injection to analyse erythropoietin (EPO) gene expression changes in the liver, one of the main target organs of acute-phase cytokines. EPO began to increase in the serum of TO-treated animals 6 h after injection and reached a maximum at 24 h (125±20 pg/ml). The detection of total RNA by polymerase chain reaction analysis showed that the levels of EPO gene expression in the liver were considerably increased between 2 and 12 h by up to 20-fold at the peak after TO administration, followed by a gradual decrease over the next 48 h, although the values remained significantly higher compared with the control group. In the kidney, after a sudden slight increase, the values declined progressively to 3.5-fold decrease at 12 h after the injection. In the liver, a parallel upregulation of the hypoxia-inducible factor-1 (HIF-1) α gene was observed (up to 4.7-fold increase), while HIF-2 α gene expression remained unaltered. On the other hand, the protein of both genes became detectable after the injection and increased progressively over 24 h, with a subsequent decline. These results suggest that EPO may be added to the increasing group of positive acute-phase proteins and the liver might represent the major source of the hormone under these conditions in the rat.