Diallyl sulfide (DAS), is protective against chemically induced heptotoxicity, mutagenesis, and carcinogenesis. The mechanism of its protective effects is not fully understood. In this study, we found that DAS can induce the expression of heme oxygenase-1 (HO-1), which plays a critical role in the cell defense system against oxidative stress. DAS causes a dose- and time-dependent increase of HO-1 protein and mRNA level without toxicity in HepG2 cells. DAS-induced HO-1 protein expression is dependent on newly synthesized mRNA and newly synthesized protein. DAS increases Nrf2 protein expression, nuclear translocation, and DNA-binding activity. The MAP kinase ERK is activated by DAS. Both ERK and p38 pathways play an important role in DAS-induced Nrf2 nuclear translocation and ho-1 gene activation. DAS stimulates a transient increase of reactive oxygen species (ROS). N-Acetyl-cysteine blocked this increase of ROS production as well as DAS-induced ERK activation, Nrf2 protein expression and nuclear translocation, and ho-1 gene activation. The increase in HO-1 produced by DAS protected the HepG2 cells against toxicity by hydrogen peroxide or arachidonic acid. These results suggest that DAS induces ho-1 through production of ROS, and Nrf2 and MAPK (ERK and p38) mediate this induction. Induction of ho-1 may play a role in the protective effects of DAS.