Keratin 8 (K8)-deficient adult mice develop a severe disease of the gastrointestinal tract characterized mainly by colorectal hyperplasia and inflammation. Given that hepatocytes contain K8/K18 heteropolymers only, this animal model was used to assess the contribution of these simple epithelium keratins to hepatocyte structural and functional integrity. Homozygous mutant (HMZ), heterozygous, and wild-type (WT) mice were examined for hepatocyte structural and metabolic features and their survival to partial hepatectomy. Except for the presence of few necrotic foci, no other tissular or cellular alterations were observed in nonhepatectomized HMZ mouse livers; glycogen and lipid peroxidation levels were essentially normal, but a small reduction in bile flow was observed. In response to a single pentobarbital injection, HMZ mice had longer sleeping times than heterozygous and WT mice. After a two-thirds partial hepatectomy under pentobarbital anesthesia, all HMZ mice died within a few hours, whereas those anesthetized with ether survived for 1 to 2 days. One hour after hepatectomy after pentobarbital anesthesia, many hepatocytes contained erythrocytes and large vacuoles in the cytoplasm, which suggests damage at the plasma membrane level in response to a sudden increase in portal blood flow. In line with these findings, an uptake of trypan blue by HMZ but not WT mouse hepatocytes was observed during a 10 ml/minute perfusion via the portal vein with a dye-supplemented buffer. Subsequent cellular dispersion led to viable WT mouse hepatocytes but largely nonviable HMZ mouse hepatocytes. Better viability was obtained at lower perfusion rates. Partially hepatectomized heterozygous mice developed liver steatosis, a condition that was not associated with a change in K8 content but perhaps linked to the presence of the neo gene. Transgenic HMZ mouse rescue experiments with a full-length K8 gene confirmed that the phenotypic alterations observed in partially hepatectomized HMZ mice were caused by the disruption of the K8 gene. Taken together, these findings demonstrate that simple epithelium keratins are essential for the maintenance of hepatocyte structural and functional integrity.