Studies have indicated the role of HSF1 (heat-shock transcription factor 1) in repressing the transcription of some nonheat shock genes. XAF1 (XIAP-associated factor 1) was an inhibitor of apoptosis-interacting protein with the effect of antagonizing the cytoprotective role of XIAP. XAF1 expression was lower in gastrointestinal cancers than in normal tissues with the mechanism unclear. Here we showed that gastrointestinal cancer tissues expressed higher levels of HSF1 than matched normal tissues. The expression of XAF1 and HSF1 was negatively correlated in gastrointestinal cancer cell lines. Stress stimuli, including heat, hypo-osmolarity, and H 2O 2, significantly suppressed the expression of XAF1, whereas the alteration of HSF1 expression negatively correlated with XAF1 expression. We cloned varying lengths of the 5′-flanking region of the XAF1 gene into luciferase reporter vectors, and we evaluated their promoter activities. A transcription silencer was found between the -592- and -1414-nucleotide region that was rich in nGAAn/nTTCn elements (where n indicates G, A, T, or C). A high affinity and functional HSF1-binding element within the -862/-821-nucleotide region was determined by electrophoretic mobility shift assay and chromatin immunoprecipitation assay. Inactivation of this "heat-shock element" by either site-directed mutation or an HSF1 inhibitor, pifithrin-α, restored the promoter activity of the silencer structure. Moreover, pretreatment with antioxidants suppressed HSF1 binding activity and increased the transcriptional activity and expression of XAF1. These findings suggested that endogenous stress pressure in cancer cells sustained the high level expression of HSF1 and subsequently suppressed XAF1 expression, implicating the synergized effect of two anti-apoptotic protein families, HSP and inhibitors of apoptosis, in cytoprotection under stress circumstances.