The X-linked inhibitor of apoptosis (XIAP) is a member of a novel family of inhibitors of apoptosis. Since suppression of apoptosis is fundamentally important for carcinogenesis and tumor growth, we investigated the expression and function of XIAP in human hepatocellular carcinomas (HCCs). XIAP was expressed constitutively in HCC cell lines. Fourteen out of 20 (70%) HCC tissues demonstrated moderate or strong cytoplasmic staining for XIAP, whereas non-tumor parts showed negative or weak staining for XIAP by immunohistochemistry. In addition, XIAP expression was inversely correlated with apoptosis, but not with proliferation in HCC tissues. These results indicated that XIAP is a principal inhibitor of apoptosis overexpressed in human HCCs and that XIAP may be a potential target for gene therapy of human HCCs.