Matrix metalloproteinases (MMPs) are known to play an important role in cell migration during cancer invasion by degrading extracellular matrix proteins. This study aimed to determine the role of MMP-9 in hepatocellular carcinoma (HOC) carcinogenesis. Eighty-nine cases who underwent liver transplantation for HOC in cirrhotic liver were selected for this study. The tumor characteristics such as nodule number, maximal diameter, portal vein invasion, and the preoperative alpha-fetoprotein levels were reviewed. The intensity of immunostaining and the percentage of immunoreactive cells with MMP-9 were evaluated. All patients were evaluated for HOC recurrence and/or death, and cause of death was noted. There was a lower survival and more recurrence risk among participants with 4 or more nodules exceeding 3 cm in diameter, with poorly differentiated tumor, and with large-vessel involvement. Eleven patients developed recurrent HCC (12.4%). Twelve patients died as a result of HOC (13.5%). Among 89 HCCs, the incidences of a weak (+) and moderate (++) expression of MMP-9 in carcinoma cells were 30.3% (23/89) and 43.8% (39/89), respectively. Increased expression and intensity of MMP-9 were found to be inversely associated with poor tumor differentiation (P = 0.016, P = 0.009, respectively). A significant correlation between expression and intensity of MMP-9 and large vascular invasion (P = 0.01, and P = 0.03) was also observed. As far as prognosis is concerned, increased immunoreactivity and intensity of MMP-9 were found to exert an unfavorable impact on overall survival rates (P < 0.01, P = 0.01, respectively) and recurrences (P = 0.001, P = 0.02). Multivariate analyses revealed that MMP-9 staining percentage (P = 0.007) and portal vein invasion (P = 0.002) were independent predictors of survival, whereas the only independent predictor of recurrences was portal vein invasion (P = 0.007). In this study, our results indicate a positive association between MMP-9 expression and histopathologic parameters that indicate poor prognosis. We conclude that together, MMP-9 staining percentage and portal vein invasion in HOC may aid to predict poor outcome. Nevertheless MMP-9 staining percentage is expected to be a potential predictive marker on survival and needs to be studied more in detail. Liver Transpl 16:621-630, 2010. (C) 2010 AASLD.