Quercetin is a dietary anticancer chemical that is capable of inducing apoptosis in tumor cells. However, little is known about its biological effect on nonmalignant cells, although the effect is one of the critical criteria to evaluate the clinical efficacy of the anticancer agent. In this study, we investigated the effects of quercetin on cell growth and apoptosis using embryonic normal hepatic cell line (BNL CL.2) and its SV40-transformed cell line (BNL SV A.8). We also evaluated the effects of quercetin on the antioxidant defense system in those cells. BNL SV A.8 cells were more sensitive to quercetin-mediated cytotoxicity than BNL CL.2 cells. In addition, the enzyme assays showed that quercetin actively stimulated the antioxidant defense systems including superoxide dismutase, catalase, glutathione, and glutathione reductase only in the BNL CL.2 cells. In particular, quercetin significantly reduced superoxide dismutase activity and increased the malonaldehyde content in BNL SV A.8 cells. These are thought to be closely related to quercetin-mediated apoptosis. Our findings suggest that quercetin is a dietary flavonoid that is capable of inducing selective growth inhibition and apoptosis in hepatic tumor cells, but not in normal cells.