MicroRNAs (miRNAs) are a non-coding family of genes involved in post-transcriptional gene regulation. These transcripts are associated with cell proliferation, cell differentiation, cell death and carcinogenesis. We analysed the miRNA expression profiles in 25 pairs of hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) and adjacent non-tumorous tissue (NT) and nine additional chronic hepatitis (CH) specimens using a human miRNA microarray. Targets and references samples were co-hybridized to a microarray containing whole human mature and precursor miRNA sequences. Whereas three miRNAs exhibited higher expression in the HCC samples than that in the NT samples, five miRNAs demonstrated lower expression in the HCC samples than in the NT samples (P<0.0001). Classification of samples as HCC or NT by using support vector machine algorithms based on these data provided an overall prediction accuracy of 97.8% (45/46). In addition, the expression levels of four miRNAs were inversely correlated with the degree of HCC differentiation (P<0.01). A comparison of CH and liver cirrhosis samples revealed significantly different pattern of miRNA expression (P<0.01). There were no differences, however, between hepatitis B-positive and hepatitis C-positive samples. This information may help clarify the molecular mechanisms involved in the progression of liver disease, potentially serving as a diagnostic tool of HCC.