Signaling by tumor necrosis factor type 1 receptor (TNFR-1) is required for the initiation of liver regeneration after partial hepatectomy. Using knockout mice that lack either TNFR-1 or TNFR-2, we determined whether signaling through TNF receptors is important for liver injury and hepatocyte proliferation induced by carbon tetrachloride (CCl4). Lack of TNFR-1 inhibited hepatocyte DNA synthesis after CCl4 injection. At 44 hours after the injection, replication of hepatocytes in TNFR-1 was 50% to 90% lower than in wild-type (WT) animals, depending on the dose injected. In WT animals, hepatocyte replication was essentially completed by 4 days after CCl4 injection, but replication at a low level persisted in TNFR-1 mice for at least 2 weeks. TNFR-1 knockout mice had little detectable NF-kappa B and STAT3 binding during the first 5 hours after CCl4, high plasma TNF, and reduced levels of plasma interleukin (IL)-6 and liver IL-6 mRNA. Injection of IL-6 30 minutes before CCl4 administration corrected the deficiency of hepatocyte replication at 44 hours and restored STAT3 binding to normal levels. In contrast, mice lacking TNFR-2 did not differ significantly from WT mice in NF-kappa B and STAT3 binding, IL-6 and TNF levels, or hepatocyte replication. Although AP-1 binding was induced in WT TNFR-1 and TNFR-2 knockout mice, binding in TNFR-2 knockouts was lower than in WT mice. C/EBP binding was much lower in TNFR-1 and TNFR-2 knockout mice than in WT mice. As assessed by morphological analysis and alanine aminotransferase levels, the acute injury caused by CCl4 appeared to be similar in the three groups of animals, but subsequent regeneration was impaired in mice lacking TNFR-1. We conclude that a TNFR-1 signaling pathway involving NF-kappa B, IL-6, and STAT3 is an important component of the hepatocyte mitogenic response induced by CCl4 injury in mouse liver.