Aberrant activation of the Ras/Raf-1/extracellular-regulated kinase (ERK) pathway has been shown to be involved in the progression of human hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC). However, the mechanism of dysregulation of ERK activation is poorly understood. Recently, we identified Sprouty-related protein with Ena/vasodilator-stimulated phosphoprotein homology-1 domain (Spred) as a physiological inhibitor of the Ras/Raf-1/ERK pathway. In this study, we found that the expression levels of Spred-1 and -2 in human HCC tissue were frequently decreased, comparing with those in adjacent non-tumorous tissue. Moreover, Spred expression levels in HCC tissue were inversely correlated with the incidence of tumor invasion and metastasis. Forced expression of Spred-1 inhibited HCC cell proliferation in vitro and in vivo, which was associated with reduced ERK activation. Spred-1 overexpression also reduced the secretion of matrix metalloproteinase-9 (MMP-9) and MMP-2, which play important roles in tumor invasion and metastasis. In addition, Spred-1 inhibited growth factor-mediated HCC cell motility. These data indicate that the reduction of Spred expression in HCC is one of the causes of the acquisition of malignant features. Thus, Spred could be not only a novel prognostic factor but also a new therapeutic target for human HCC.