Hypercitrullinemia (adult type), believed to be one of the hereditary urea cycle disorders, is known to be complicated by hepatocellular carcinoma at a high incidence (approximately 14%). We investigated the relationship between this hypercitrullinemia and hepatocarcinogenesis. After the addition of citrulline, incorporation of tritiated thymidine into primary cultured hepatocytes of adult rat increased in a dose-dependent fashion in the range of 0.1 to 5 mmol/L. The citrulline-added group also showed significant increase in ornithine and polyamine contents in hepatocytes. The incidence of epithelial cell foci in the in vivo-in vitro tumor promotion analyzing system significantly rose in the group maintained with 5 mmol/L citrulline and in the group maintained with 1.5 mmol/L phenobarbital. These findings suggest the possibility that citrulline has a promotion effect on hepatocyte proliferation and that at high concentrations it plays the role of a hepatocarcinogenesis promoter.