Although the translocation of metallothionein (MT) from cytoplasm to nucleus has been demonstrated in liver during times of high requirement for zinc (fetal development and the neonatal period), the role of MT in cellular growth is not well understood. In this study, a potential role of MT in liver regeneration was investigated in wild type (WT) and MT-I and MT-II gene knockout (MT-null) mice after 35% partial hepatectomy (PH) or sham laparotomy. Hepatic MT levels and proliferation index were measured at 0, 5, 15, 24, 36, 48, and 60 hrs after PH and 48 hrs after sham laparotomy (control). MT levels were increased in WT mice (peak at 24 hrs after PH) and declined to normal levels by 60 hrs after PH. Immunohistochemical staining for MT in WT mice indicated the presence of MT in both nucleus and cytoplasm of hepatocytes at 24 hrs after PH, whereas MT was present mainly in the cytoplasm at 36-60 hrs after PH and 48 hrs after sham laparotomy. Hepatic proliferation index in both WT and MT-null mice, as determined by argyrophilic nucleolar organizing region staining and proliferating cell nuclear antigen immunohistochemical staining, reached a peak at 48 hrs and declined by 60 hrs after PH. Cell proliferation was significantly less in MT-null mice as compared to WT mice during liver regeneration after PH. These results suggest that MT may play a positive role in hepatic regeneration after PH.