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Expression of fascin-1, an actin bundling protein, is a poor prognostic factor in hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC). However, its biological role in HCC cells remains unclear. Using human HCC tissues and cell lines HLE, Hep3B, and Huh7, we investigated whether fascin-1 is involved in epithelial–mesenchymal transition (EMT) and increases invasiveness, thus serving as a promoter of cancer aggressiveness. Immunohistochemical analysis revealed that fascin-1 expression in 19% of primary HCCs was associated with repression of E-cadherin expression, indicating EMT. In vitro, HLE cells showed high fascin-1 expression, loss of E-cadherin, and efficient invasion through Matrigel. Knockdown of fascin-1 significantly repressed invasiveness of the HLE cells and slightly induced E-cadherin expression. In contrast, Huh7 cells had low fascin-1 levels, high E-cadherin expression, and were expectedly non-invasive. However, forced overexpression of fascin-1 conferred only modest invasiveness without E-cadherin repression, indicating that fascin-1 alone cannot effectively stimulate invasiveness or EMT. Furthermore, Hep3B cells were non-invasive despite high fascin-1 expression. Nevertheless, fascin-1 overexpression dramatically increased the migratory potential of Huh7 cells. We then evaluated matrix metalloproteinases (MMPs) 2 and 9 from the HCC cell lines. Significant MMP secretion was only found in HLE cells. Although MMP levels were not elevated in fascin-1-overexpressing Huh7 cells, their invasiveness was remarkably augmented by coculture with HLE cells, and was suppressed in the presence of an MMP inhibitor. In conclusion, we propose that fascin-1 primarily acts as a migration factor associated with EMT in HCC cells and facilitates their invasiveness in combination with MMPs. (Cancer Sci 2011; 102: 1228–1235)