Liver regeneration is the common mechanism whereby a patient recovers form a liver injury. In the western world, ethanol is the single most important aetiological factor associated with liver disease, and it appears crucial to determine if ethanol interferes with liver regeneration. We studied the response to a 70% hepatectomy in 240 rats receiving a nutritionally adequate diet containing 36% of their calories as ethanol for three weeks and their pair-fed controls receiving a liquid diet where ethanol is isocalorically replace with carbohydrates. Criteria of liver regeneration were: incorporation of 3H-thymidine in hepatocyte DNA (cpm/10 microgram DNA) and number of hepatocyte labelled nuclei on autoradiography per 100 high power fields. Controls displayed the usual response with peak activity of liver regeneration at 24 hours. Consumption of ethanol was associated with a statistically significant reduction of liver regeneration by both criteria for up to 72 hours after a 70% hepatectomy and delayed the peak of regenerative activity by 24 hours. This inhibiting effect was not related to the presence of alcohol in blood nor to hepatic microsomal enzyme induction by ethanol nor to widespread necrosis of hepatocytes. This effect was reversible after one week of abstinence. This impairment of liver cell renewal by ethanol may be of major significance in the severity and outcome of alcohol-related liver injury.