Costimulation mediated by costimulatory molecules, such as B7-1 and B7-2, which are ligands for the CD28/cytolytic T lymphocyte associated antigen (CTLA)-4 counter-receptor, plays an important role in the induction of T cell-mediated antitumor immunity. We investigated the expressions of B7-1, B7-2, and human leukocyte antigen (HLA) class I in seven human hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) cell lines by reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) and flow cytometric analysis. RT-PCR showed that all these human HCC cell lines were positive for B7-1 and B7-2 at the messenger RNA (mRNA) level. Flow cytometric analysis revealed that they all expressed B7-1, B7-2, and HLA class I on the cell surface. However, the expression levels of B7-1 and B7-2 were very low whereas those of HLA class I were high. B7-1 and B7-2 expression could be increased by treatment with interferon α and interferon γ in a dose-dependent manner, although the expression levels of B7-1 and B7-2 after interferon treatment remained low. By transfecting Hep3B cells with a plasmid containing human B7-1 complementary cDNA (cDNA), we were able to establish Hep3B cell lines strongly expressing B7-1. From mixed lymphocytes and tumor cultures analysis, the primary cytolytic activity against parental Hep3B cells could be induced effectively by B71-transfected Hep3B cells. These findings suggested that B7-1 gene transfer is the best way to induce strong expression of this molecule and this might be useful for immuno-gene therapy against human HCC.