The endoplasmic reticulum (ER) represents a subcellular target reactive to various cytosolic impairments. The involvement of ER-stress in organ preservation was investigated, comparing machine preservation, cold storage (CS) and a novel concept of only temporary perfusion after procurement. Rat livers were retrieved 30 min after cardiac arrest and preserved for 18 h by CS, oxygenated machine perfusion for 18 h (18 h MP) or for 2 h with subsequent CS for 16 h (2 h MP + 16 h CS). Upon reperfusion, 18 h MP significantly improved enzyme leakage (ALT, LDH) and promoted a 2-fold increase of metabolic recovery compared to CS. However, vascular stress, evaluated by endothelin-release, was significantly elevated after 18 h MP. Interestingly, better viability was obtained using the short-term perfusion protocol (2 h MP + 16 h CS), which further reduced enzyme leakage, maintained energetic recovery and mitigated endothelin-release compared to 18 h MP. Caspase 12-mRNA was upregulated in the 18 h MP-group but unchanged after CS or 2 h MP + 16 h CS. Activation/cleavage of caspase 12 protein was significantly enhanced after 18 h MP and very low in the 2 h MP + 16 h CS-group. Correspondingly, electron microscopy showed ultrastructural alterations of ER after CS and especially after 18 h MP but not after 2 h MP + 16 h CS. At this time mitochondrial appearance was unaffected in all groups, suggesting the ER to be an early subcellular target of preservation injury. In our model, ER and vascular endothelium were best protected by only temporary machine perfusion, which also maintained overall graft viability.