Human hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) is one of the most common cancers worldwide. In this work, we report on a comprehensive characterization of gene expression profiles of hepatitis B virus-positive HCC through the generation of a large set of 5'-read expressed sequence tag (EST) clusters (11,065 in total) from HCC and noncancerous liver samples, which then were applied to a cDNA microarray system containing 12,393 genes/ESTs and to comparison with a public database. The commercial cDNA microarray, which contains 1,176 known genes related to oncogenesis, was used also for profiling gene expression. Integrated data from the above approaches identified 2,253 genes/ESTs as candidates with differential expression. A number of genes related to oncogenesis and hepatic function/differentiation were selected for further semiquantitative reverse transcriptase-PCR analysis in 29 paired HCC/noncancerous liver samples. Many genes involved in cell cycle regulation such as cyclins, cyclin-dependent kinases, and cell cycle negative regulators were deregulated in most patients with HCC. Aberrant expression of the Wnt-beta-catenin pathway and enzymes for DNA replication also could contribute to the pathogenesis of HCC. The alteration of transcription levels was noted in a large number of genes implicated in metabolism, whereas a profile change of others might represent a status of dedifferentiation of the malignant hepatocytes, both considered as potential markers of diagnostic value. Notably, the altered transcriptome profiles in HCC could be correlated to a number of chromosome regions with amplification or loss of heterozygosity, providing one of the underlying causes of the transcription anomaly of HCC.