Mitochondrial bioenergetic impairment has been found in the organelles isolated from rat liver during the prereplicative phase of liver regeneration. To gain insight into the mechanism underlying this impairment, we investigated mitochondrial ultrastructure and membrane permeability properties in the course of liver regeneration after partial hepatectomy, with special interest to the role played by Ca2+ in this process. The results show that during the first day after partial hepatectomy, significant changes in the ultrastructure of mitochondria in situ occur. Mitochondrial swelling and release from mitochondria of both glutamate dehydrogenase and aspartate aminotransferase isoenzymes with an increase in the mitochondrial Ca2+ content were also observed. Cyclosporin-A proved to be able to prevent the changes in mitochondrial membrane permeability properties. At 24 h after partial hepatectomy, despite alteration in mitochondrial membrane permeability properties, no release of cytochrome c was found. The ultrastructure of mitochondria, the membrane permeability properties and the Ca2+ content returned to normal values during the replicative phase of liver regeneration. These results suggest that, during the prereplicative phase of liver regeneration, the changes in mitochondrial ultrastructure observed in liver specimens were correlated with Ca2+-induced permeability transition in mitochondria.