Hypoxia-inducible factor-1 (HIF-1) is a ubiquitously expressed oxygen-regulated transcription factor composed of alpha and beta subunits. HIF-1 activates transcription of various genes including those involved in metastatic tumor growth. In the present study, HIF-1alpha expression in tumor-bearing mouse liver was examined after inoculation of tumor cells into portal vein. We found that tumor-bearing liver showed greatly increased HIF-1alpha expression. Plasmid DNA (pDNA) expressing short hairpin RNA targeting HIF-1alpha (pshHIF-1alpha) was effective in suppressing protein expression of HIF-1alpha in vitro. Intravenous injection of pshHIF-1alpha by hydrodynamics-based procedure reduced the HIF-1alpha protein expression in both normal and tumor cells and tumor cell number in the liver. Pre-injection of pshHIF-1alpha to mice, by which pDNA was delivered only to liver cells, not to tumor cells, was also effective in reducing the number of tumor cells inoculated 3 days after pDNA injection. These findings indicate that HIF-1alpha expression is increased in normal liver cells as well as tumor cells, and HIF-1alpha expression plays an important role in tumor progression. Use of the RNA interference (RNAi) of HIF-1 is an effective strategy for inhibiting tumor cell growth, and both tumor and normal cells can be the target for RNAi-based anticancer treatment.Gene Therapy (2008) 15, 572-582; doi:10.1038/sj.gt.3303103; published online 14 February 2008.