We examined the mechanism of promotion of liver regeneration by tacrolimus hydrate (FK506), a potent immunosuppressant, after partial hepatectomy. The administration of FK506 significantly increased the bromodeoxyuridine (BrdU) labelling index at 36 and 48 h after 70% hepatectomy compared with the placebo group. Using the same model, we examined the effect of FK506 on the expression of hepatocyte growth factor (HGF) and transforming growth factor-beta 1 (TGF-beta 1) and found no changes in HGF and TGF-beta 1 mRNA expression in the liver or in the HGF protein concentration in plasma. We found that pretreatment with FK506 markedly reduced the activity and number of liver-resident natural killer (NK) cells at the time of partial hepatectomy. Our observations suggest that the promotion of liver regeneration by FK506 may be attributable to a reduction in the number of liver-resident NK cells and to inhibition of their activity.