Liriodenine was isolated from the leaves of Michelia compressa. This study was designed to assess cell cycle arrest, the production of nitric oxide (NO) and p53 expression in liriodenine-treated human hepatoma cell lines, including wild-type p53 (Hep G2 and SK-Hep-1). As evidenced by flowcytometric studies, liriodenine induced cell cycle G(1) arrest and inhibited DNA synthesis in Hep G2 and SK-Hep-1 cell lines. The p53, iNOS expression and intracellular NO level were markedly increased in Hep G2 cells after liriodenine treatment. A NO inhibitor, carboxy-PTIO inhibited the p53 expression induced by liriodenine. In addition, liriodenine could not induce obvious cytotoxicity in normal human IMR-90 cell line. These results demonstrate that NO production and p53 expression are critical factors in liriodenine-induced growth inhibition in human wild-type p53 hepatoma cells.