The aim of this study is to investigate the anticancer effect of aloe-emodin in two human liver cancer cell lines, Hep G2 and Hep 3B. We observed that aloe-emodin inhibited cell proliferation and induced apoptosis in both examined cell lines, but with different the antiproliferative mechanisms. In Hep G2 cells, aloe-emodin induced p53 expression and was accompanied by induction of p21 expression that was associated with a cell cycle arrest in G1 phase. In addition, aloe-emodin had a marked increase in Fas/APO1 receptor and Bax expression. In contrast, with p53-deficient Hep 3B cells, the inhibition of cell proliferation of aloe-emodin was mediated through a p21-dependent manner that did not cause cell cycle arrest or increase the level of Fas/APO1 receptor, but rather promoted aloe-emodin induced apoptosis by enhancing expression of Bax. These findings suggest that aloe-emodin may be useful in liver cancer prevention.