Pterocarnin A, isolated from the bark of Pterocarya stenoptera (Juylandaceae), was investigated for its antiproliferative activity in human breast adenocarcinoma MCF-7 cells. To identify the anticancer mechanism of pterocarnin A, we assayed its effects on apoptosis, cell cycle distribution, and levels of p53, p21/WAF1, Fas/APO-1 receptor and Fas ligand. The results showed that pterocarnin A induced apoptosis of MCF-7 cells without mediation of p53 and p21/WAF1. We suggest that the Fas/Fas ligand apoptotic system is the main pathway of pterocarnin A-mediated apoptosis of MCF-7 cells. Our study reports here for the first time that the activity of the Fas/Fas ligand apoptotic system may participate in the antiproliferative activity of pterocarnin A in MCF-7 cells.