Curcumin (diferuloylmethane) is an active component of the spice turmeric and has a diversity of antitumor activities. In this study, we found that curcumin can inhibit cancer cell invasion and metastasis through activation of the tumor suppressor DnaJ-like heat shock protein 40 (HLJ1). Human lung adenocarcinoma cells (CL1-5) treated with curcumin (1-20 mumol/L) showed a concentration-dependent reduction in cell migration, invasion, and metastatic ability, and this was associated with increased HLJ1 expression. Knockdown of HLJ1 expression by siRNA was able to reverse the curcumin-induced anti-invasive and antimetastasis effects in vitro and in vivo. The HLJ1 promoter and enhancer in a luciferase reporter assay revealed that curcumin transcriptionally up-regulates HLJ1 expression through an activator protein (AP-1) site within the HLJ1 enhancer. JunD, one of the AP-1 components, was significantly up-regulated by curcumin (1-20 mumol/L) in a concentration- and time-dependent manner. Knockdown of JunD expression could partially reduce the curcumin-induced HLJ1 activation and diminish the anti-invasive effect of curcumin, indicating that JunD would seem to be involved in curcumin-induced HLJ1 expression. Curcumin was able to induce c-Jun NH(2)-kinase (JNK) phosphorylation, whereas the JNK inhibitor (SP-600125) could attenuate curcumin-induced JunD and HLJ1 expression. Activation of HLJ1 by curcumin further leads to up-regulation of E-cadherin and a suppression of cancer cell invasion. Our results show that curcumin induces HLJ1, through activation of the JNK/JunD pathway, and inhibits lung cancer cell invasion and metastasis by modulating E-cadherin expression. This is a novel mechanism and supports the application of curcumin in anti-cancer metastasis therapy.