Although the complement system has been implicated in liver regeneration after toxic injury and partial hepatectomy, the mechanism or mechanisms through which it participates in these processes remains ill-defined. In this study, we demonstrate that complement activation products (C3a, C3b/iC3b) are generated in the serum of experimental mice after CCl(4) injection and that complement activation is required for normal liver regeneration. Decomplementation by cobra venom factor resulted in impaired entry of hepatocytes into S phase of the cell cycle. In addition, livers from C3-deficient (C3(-/-)) mice showed similarly impaired proliferation of hepatocytes, along with delayed kinetics of both hepatocyte hyperplasia and removal of injured liver parenchyma. Restoration of hepatocyte proliferative capabilities of C3(-/-) mice through C3a reconstitution, as well as the impaired regeneration of C3a receptor-deficient mice, demonstrated that C3a promotes liver cell proliferation via the C3a receptor. These findings, together with data showing two waves of complement activation, indicate that C3 activation is a pivotal mechanism for liver regeneration after CCl(4) injury, which fulfills multiple roles; C3a generated early after toxin injection is relevant during the priming of hepatocytes, whereas C3 activation at later times after CCl(4) treatment contributes to the clearance of injured tissue.