The purpose of this study was to identify and validate novel prognostic biomarkers in human hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC). We analyzed gene expression profiles not only between 33 HCCs and their corresponding noncancerous liver tissues, but also between 25 HCCs and pooled normal liver tissues using cDNA microarrays containing 12800 genes. Functional analysis of differentially expressed genes involved in HCC carcinogenesis and tumor progression revealed that up-regulated and down-regulated genes are mainly associated with cell cycle and immune response, respectively. We detected two regions of cytogenetic changes only in poorly-differentiated HCCs using the expression data. We identified a 9-gene expression signature, which was able to predict differentiation degree and survival of HCC samples. Among the 9 most discriminatory genes, minichromosome maintenance protein 2 (MCM2), a significantly up-regulated gene involved in cell cycle pathway, was selected for further analysis. Overexpression of MCM2 protein related to poor-differentiation in HCC was validated using tissue microarray-based immunohistochemistry containing 96 HCCs. Our studies show that the 9-gene expression signature may serve as promising prognostic biomarkers involved in hepatocarcinogenesis and tumor progression.