Cyclin D1 is considered to play a critical role in the progression from G1 to S phase of the cell cycle, and its overexpression is seen in many human tumors. However, previous studies in cell lines have shown that cyclin D1 is not sufficient to trigger cell replication. To directly test the role of cyclin D1 in the progression of the cell cycle, we have examined the proliferative response of hepatocytes to the hepatomitogen 1,4-bis[2-(3,5-dichloropyridyloxy)]benzene (TCPOBOP) in mice with homozygous disruption of the cyclin D1 gene. We found that 24 hours after administration of TCPOBOP, the number of bromodeoxyuridine (BrdU)-positive hepatocytes was significantly reduced in cyclin D1(-/-) (labeling index was 1.9% in knockout mice vs. 9.7% of heterozygous mice); however, no difference in the number of proliferating hepatocytes was found 36 or 72 hours after treatment (labeling index was 16% and 43% in cyclin D1(-/-) mice vs. 20% and 41% of heterozygous mice), indicating that lack of cyclin D1 may transiently delay entry into S phase but is not sufficient to inhibit the response of hepatocytes to mitogenic stimuli. The results also show that although there was no difference in hepatic protein levels of cyclin D2 and D3 between untreated cyclin D1(-/-) and cyclin D1(+/-) mice, messenger RNA (mRNA) and protein levels of cyclin E were much higher in the former. In conclusion, our results show that cyclin D1 is not essential for liver development and hepatocyte proliferation induced by mitogenic stimuli and suggest that overexpression of cyclin E may compensate for the lack of cyclin D1.