Background: Crotonaldehyde, an alpha, beta-unsaturated aldehyde present in cigarette smoke, is an environmental pollutant and a product of lipid peroxidation. It also produces adverse effects to humans and is considered as a risk factor for various diseases. Heme oxygenase-1 (HO-1) plays important roles in protecting cells against oxidative stress as a prime cellular defense mechanism. However, HO-1 may be associated with cell proliferation and resistance to apoptosis in cancer cells. The aim of this study was to examine the effects of HO-1 induction on cell survival in crotonaldehyde-stimulated human hepatocellular carcinoma (HepG2) cells. Methods: To investigate the signaling pathway involved in crotonaldehyde-induced HO-1 expression, we compared levels of inhibition efficiency of specific inhibitors and specific small interfering RNAs (siRNAs) of several kinases. The cell-cycle and cell death was measured by FACS and terminal dUTP nick-end labeling (TUNEL) staining. Results: Treatment with crotonaldehyde caused a significant increase in nuclear translocation of NF-E2 related factor (Nrf2). Treatment with inhibitors of the protein kinase C-δ (PKC-δ) and p38 pathways resulted in obvious blockage of crotonaldehyde-induced HO-1 expression. Furthermore, treatment with HO-1 siRNA and the specific HO-1 inhibitor zinc-protoporphyrin produced an increase in the G0/G1 phase of the cell cycle in crotonaldehyde-stimulated HepG2 cells. Conclusions: Taken together, the results support an anti-apoptotic role for HO-1 in crotonaldehyde-stimulated human hepatocellular carcinoma cells and provide a mechanism by which induction of HO-1 expression via PKC-δ-p38 MAPK-Nrf2 pathway may promote tumor resistance to oxidative stress.