Runt-related transcription factor 3 (RUNX3) is known as a tumor suppressor gene for gastric cancer and other cancers, this gene may be involved in the development of hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC). RUNX3 expression was analyzed by immunoblot and immunohistochemistry in HCC cells and tissues, respectively. Hep3B cells, lacking endogenous RUNX3, were introduced with RUNX3 constructs. Cell proliferation was measured using the MTT assay and apoptosis was evaluated using DAPI staining. Apoptosis signaling was assessed by immunoblot analysis. RUNX3 protein expression was frequently inactivated in the HCC cell lines (91%) and tissues (90%). RUNX3 expression inhibited 90±8% of cell growth at 72 h in serum starved Hep3B cells. Forty-eight hour serum starvation-induced apoptosis and the percentage of apoptotic cells reached 31±4% and 4±1% in RUNX3-expressing Hep3B and control cells, respectively. Apoptotic activity was increased by Bim expression and caspase-3 and caspase-9 activation. RUNX3 expression enhanced serum starvation-induced apoptosis in HCC cell lines. RUNX3 is deleted or weakly expressed in HCC, which leads to tumorigenesis by escaping apoptosis.