The liver has the ability to restore its functional capacity following injury or resection and the priming of liver regeneration is a complex process that has not been completely elucidated. In the current research, to further reveal the priming mechanism of liver regeneration, hepatocyte total protein and hepatocyte cytosol of the rats at 4 h after 2/3 partial hepatectomy (PHx) were studied, respectively, by 2-DE and 2-D blue native gel electrophoresis. Seventeen unique differential proteins were identified in hepatocyte total protein samples. Nine differential protein complexes containing 41 protein components were identified in hepatocyte cytosol samples. For the first time, at the priming stage of liver regeneration, the variations of serine protease inhibitor 2c, sulfite oxidase and valosin-containing protein (VCP) were presented and validated by Western blotting, and the VCP complex was further validated by antibody super-shift experiments. The current results suggested that at 4 h after PHx, VCP complex was down-regulated in hepatocyte cytosol, apoptosis pathways were inhibited, nuclear factor-kappaB and interleukin 6 pathways worked together and triggered the liver regeneration.