The aim of this study was to evaluate the effects of methylene blue against cholestatic oxidative stress and liver damage after ligation of the common bile duct in male Wistar rats. Eight animals were included in each of the following five groups: untreated control, methylene blue control, sham-operated, bile-duct ligation, and bile-duct ligation plus methylene blue. Methylene blue was administered intraperitoneally for 14 days at a daily dose of 2 mg/kg per day. All rats were sacrificed 2 weeks following the experimental treatment and the livers of all groups were examined biochemically and histopathologically. The severity of cholestasis and hepatic injury were determined by changes in the plasma, including enzymatic activities: aspartate aminotransferase, alanine aminotransferase, gamma glutamine transferase, and also bilirubin levels. Malondialdehyde, nitric oxide and superoxide dismutase were measured to indicate the oxidative status in the liver tissue. Myeloperoxidase activity and levels of tissue hydroxyproline were determined as measures of neutrophil activation and collagen accumulation, respectively. Liver damage was significantly prevented in the bile-duct ligated rats treated with methylene blue compared with the control bile-duct ligated rats without methylene blue. Treatment with methylene blue markedly reduced activities of serum transaminase, gamma glutamine transferase and bilirubin levels as compared to bile-duct ligated rats without methylene blue. Positive immunolabelling for alpha-smooth muscle actin (alpha-SMA) was increased, especially in vascular smooth muscle cells, fibrotic septa and also around the proliferated bile ducts, after bile-duct ligation. Only weak alpha-SMA immunolabelling was seen in livers of rats treated with methylene blue. These results indicate that methylene blue can attenuate hepatic damage in extrahepatic cholestasis by reducing oxidative stress and inflammatory processes. (C) 2008 Elsevier GmbH. All rights reserved.