Human hepatocellular carcinomas (HCCs) show resistance to apoptosis mediated by several death receptors. Because cellular FLICE/caspase-8-inhibitory protein (cFLIP) is a recently identified intracellular inhibitor of caspase-8 activation that potently inhibits death signaling mediated by all known death receptors, including Fas, TNF-receptor (TNF-R), and TNF-related apoptosis-inducing ligand receptors (TRAIL-Rs), we investigated the expression and function of cFLIP in human HCCs. We found that cFLIP is constitutively expressed in all human HCC cell lines and is expressed more in human HCC tissues than in nontumor liver tissues. Metabolic inhibitors, actinomycin D (ActD) or cycloheximide (CHX), dramatically rendered HCC cells sensitive to Fas-mediated apoptosis. Neither caspase-8 nor caspase-3 was activated by agonistic anti-Fas antibody alone, but both caspases were activated by Fas stimulation in the presence of ActD or CHX, indicating the importance of caspase-8 inhibitors that are sensitive to metabolic inhibitors. Actually, cFLIP expression was decreased in ActD or CHX treatment. cFLIP down-regulation induced by cFLIP antisense oligodeoxynucleotides sensitized HLE cells to Fas, TNF-R, and TRAIL-R-mediated apoptosis. Furthermore, cFLIP over-expression activated nuclear factor (NF)-kappaB and cFLIP down-regulation attenuated NF-kappaB activation induced by TNF-alpha or TRAIL. Pretreatment with pan-caspase-inhibitor, benzyloxycarbonyl-Val-Ala-Asp (OMe) fluoromethyl ketone (Z-VAD-fmk), restored NF-kappaB activity attenuated by cFLIP down-regulation. cFLIP expression was increased by TNF-alpha, TRAIL, or vascular endothelial growth factor but decreased by wortmannin, indicating that cFLIP expression is regulated by both the NF-kappaB and phosphatidylinostiol-3 kinase (PI-3)/Akt pathways. These results suggest that cFLIP plays an important role in cell survival not simply by inhibiting death-receptor-mediated apoptosis but also by regulating NF-kappaB activation in human HCCs.