Our previous proteomics study on human hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) cell strains revealed that cytokeratin 19 (CK19) was expressed in cells with high metastasis potential; we further studied serum CK19 fragment CYFRA 21-1 level in HCC patients and nude mice model of HCC metastasis. HCC cell line HCCLM3 was injected subcutaneously into 30 nude mice which were then randomized into 6 groups of 5 mice each. The murine serum CYFRA 21-1 and pulmonary metastases were determined 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, and 7 weeks after injection. Serum CYFRA 21-1 levels of 101 normal controls and 108 HCC patients were also determined. In nude mice model, CYFRA 21-1 level increased significantly when pulmonary metastases occurred. Among 108 HCC patients, 24 (22.2%) had increased serum CYFRA 21-1 level. The presence of portal vein tumor emboli was significantly higher in CYFRA 21-1 increased cases (33.3%, 6/24) than in CYFRA 21-1 normal cases (6.0%, 5/84) (x2= 7.403, P < 0.01). In addition, the percentage of TNM stage III/IV tumor was significantly higher in CYFRA 21-1 increased patients (54.2%, 13/24) than in CYFRA 21-1 normal cases (21.4%, 18/84) (x2= 9.776, P < 0.005). These results suggest that CK19 may play an important role in HCC metastasis.