p62 is a RNA-binding protein that was isolated by immunoscreening a cDNA expression library with autoantibodies from patients with hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC). This autoantigen binds to mRNA encoding insulin-like growth factor II, which has been found to be overexpressed in HCC and is tumorigenic in transgenic animals. Immunohistochemical analysis of HCC liver showed that 33% (9 of 27) exhibited readily detectable staining of p62 protein in the cytoplasm of all malignant cells in cancer nodules, whereas it was undetectable in adjacent nonmalignant liver cells. In addition one of two patients with cholangiocarcinoma expressed p62 in malignant bile duct epithelial cells. p62 expression was also detected in scattered cells in cirrhotic nodules in contrast to uniform expression in all cells in HCC nodules. In HCC nodules, p62 mRNA was also detected by reverse transcriptase-polymerase chain reaction analysis. Nine normal adult livers did not contain detectable p62 mRNA or p62 protein whereas five fetal livers were all positive for mRNA and protein. The observations show that p62 is developmentally regulated, expressed in fetal, but not in adult liver, and aberrantly expressed in HCC and could be playing a role in abnormal cell proliferation in HCC and cirrhosis by modulating expression of growth factors such as insulin-like growth factor II.