The NOTCH family of membranous receptors plays key roles during development and carcinogenesis. Since NOTCH2, yet not NOTCH1 has been shown essential for murine hepatogenesis, NOTCH2 rather than NOTCH1 may be more relevant to human hepatocarcinogenesis; however, no previous studies have supported this hypothesis. We therefore assessed the role of NOTCH2 in human hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) by immunohistochemistry and cell culture. Immunohistochemically, 19% of primary HCCs showed nuclear staining for NOTCH2, indicating activated NOTCH2 signaling. NOTCH2-positive HCCs were on average in more advanced clinical stages, and exhibited more immature cellular morphology, i.e. higher nuclear-cytoplasmic ratios and nuclear densities. Such features were not evident in NOTCH1‑positive HCCs. In human HCC cell lines, abundant NOTCH2 expression was associated with anaplasia, represented by loss of E-cadherin. When NOTCH2 signaling was stably downregulated in HLF cells, an anaplastic HCC cell line, the cells were attenuated in potential for in vitro invasiveness and migration, as well as in vivo tumorigenicity accompanied by histological maturation. Generally, inverse results were obtained for a differentiated HCC cell line, Huh7, manipulated to overexpress activated NOTCH2. These findings suggested that the NOTCH2 signaling may confer aggressive behavior and immature morphology in human HCC cells.