The effects of ethanol on liver regeneration are poorly understood. Acute and chronic exposure to ethanol have been found to exert opposite effects on the induction of ornithine decarboxylase, the rate-limiting enzyme for polyamine biosynthesis. Polyamines are necessary for DNA synthesis and liver regeneration after chemical or surgical liver injury. Short-term exposure to ethanol, which inhibits ornithine decarboxylase has been shown to inhibit DNA synthesis and liver regeneration, whereas more chronic exposure to ethanol increases ornithine decarboxylase activity and therefore could conceivably stimulate DNA synthesis and regeneration. To explore this later possibility, the effects of chronic ethanol consumption on ornithine decarboxylase activity, DNA synthesis and liver regeneration were studied in rats after sham laparotomy and partial hepatectomy. Chronic ethanol feeding failed to inhibit the induction of ornithine decarboxylase that occurred after partial hepatectomy and yet significantly inhibited posthepatectomy DNA synthesis and restitution of liver mass. These data suggest that the induction of hepatic polyamine biosynthesis is dissociated from DNA synthesis and liver regeneration after chronic consumption of ethanol.