In order to discover the effect of external biliary drainage on liver regeneration, we have produced a model system carrying cannula in the common bile duct of rat liver and examined the regeneration capacity of liver after partial hepatectomy under various conditions. Previously we have shown that hepatic cells proliferate by obstructive jaundice alone without partial hepatectomy [Terasaki et al; Jpn J Cancer Res 1991 ;82:170–175]. In the present study, we showed that DNA polymerase-α was induced by partial hepatectomy of rats suffering from obstructive jaundice and the induced level was similar to that of the normal regenerating liver. The level of DNA polymerase-α activity corresponded well to the liver regeneration capacity estimated by mitotic index. Contrary to our expectation, external biliary drainage for obstructive jaundice markedly suppressed the regeneration capacity of the remaining liver which was estimated by DNA polymerase-α activity, mitotic index and [3H]thymidine incorporation. The suppression may be due to the external biliary drainage itself because the liver regeneration of normal rats without jaundice was also suppressed by the biliary drainage. These results suggest that the external biliary drainage seriously suppresses the regeneration capacity of liver at least at the early stage of obstructive jaundice.