It has been shown that a variety of cell cycle-related proteins play important roles in the process of carcinogenesis including hepatocarcinogenesis. In the present study, we evaluated mRNA and protein expression of G1 phase-related cell cycle molecules in the process of hepatocarcinogenesis, using Long-Evans Cinnamon (LEC) rats, an animal model of hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC). The expression of cyclin D1, cyclin-dependent kinase 4 (Cdk4) and Cdk6 was measured quantitatively by real-time polymerase chain reaction. Cyclin D1 mRNA expression was increased significantly in chronic hepatitis liver compared with normal liver, and then decreased in HCC and the surrounding precancerous liver of LEC rats. Levels of Cdk4 mRNA were increased significantly in HCC compared to precancerous and chronic hepatitis livers. In contrast, mRNA levels of Cdk6 did not change significantly during hepatocarcinogenesis. We also evaluated the protein levels of these G1 phase-related cell cycle molecules by Western blot analyses and confirmed similar results. Total amounts of retinoblastoma protein (pRb) in the liver did not change significantly in the process of hepatocarcinogenesis in LEC rats. However, levels of phosphorylated pRb were increased markedly in the process of hepatocarcinogenesis, and the highest in HCC compared to precancerous, chronic hepatitis and normal livers. These results indicate that cyclin D1 may be involved in the regeneration of hepatocytes rather than hepatocarcinogenesis, while Cdk4 but not Cdk6 may play an important role in the development of HCC.