We previously reported 2 experiments with rumen-cannulated Holstein-Friesian dairy cows showing that during the transition period, rumen papillae surface area, and fractional absorption rate of volatile fatty acids (VFA) increase after calving. However, supplemental concentrate during the dry period and rate of increase of concentrate allowance during lactation affected papillae surface area, but not VFA absorption. Here we report the changes in gene and protein expression in rumen papillae related to tissue growth and VFA utilization. The lactation experiment treatment consisted of a rapid [RAP; 1.0 kg of dry matter (DM)/d; n = 6] or gradual (GRAD; 0.25 kg of DM/d; n = 6) increase of concentrate allowance (up to 10.9 kg of DM/d), starting at 4 d postpartum (pp). The dry period experiment treatment consisted of 3.0 kg of DM/d of concentrate (n = 4) or no concentrate (n = 5) during the last 28 d of the dry period. Real-time quantitative PCR analysis of rumen papillae showed that the expression of apoptosis-related genes was neither affected by day nor its interaction with treatment for both experiments. Expression of epithelial transporter genes was not affected by day or treatment in the lactation experiment, except for NBC1. In the dry period experiment, expression of MCT1, NBC1, DRA, NHE2, NHE3, and UT-B generally decreased after calving. A day and treatment interaction was observed for ATP1A1 in the dry period experiment, with greater expression at 18 and 8 d antepartum for concentrate than no concentrate. Generally, expression of VFA metabolism-related genes was not affected by day or its interaction with treatment. In the lactation experiment, immunoblotting of 5 selected genes showed that protein expression of DRA and PCCA was greater at 16 d pp compared with 3 and 44 d pp. Expression of NHE2 was greater, and that of ATP1A1 lower, at 16 and 44 d pp compared with 3 d pp, suggesting alterations in intracellular pH regulation and sodium homeostasis. Both MCT1 and PCCA protein were upregulated by RAP from 3 to 16 d pp, indicating modulations in VFA metabolism. Our data suggests that VFA absorption and metabolic capacity changed little per unit of surface area during the transition period, and suggests that a change in mitosis rate rather than apoptosis rate is associated with the increased ruminal VFA production, resulting in tissue growth. A significant but weak correlation between the examined gene and protein expression levels was observed only for PCCA, indicating that care must be taken when interpreting results obtained at either level.