To investigate the effects of the nuclear factor (NF)-κB signaling pathway on the induction of apoptosis by vitamin E succinate (RRR-α-tocopheryl succinate; VES) in human gastric carcinoma cells. Human gastric carcinoma SGC-7901 cells were treated with temperate concentrations of VES and pyrrolidine dithiocarbamate (PDTC), an inhibitor of NF-κB. Cell viability and apoptosis were respectively estimated by methylthiazol tetrazolium (MTT) assay and the Annexin V‑FITC method. Western blot analysis was used to evaluate the protein expressions of NF-κBp65 and Bcl-2 family members Bcl-2, Bax and cleavage of caspase-3, caspase-9, and poly (ADP-ribose) polymerase (PARP). The DNA-binding activity of NF-κBp65 was measured by electrophoretic mobility shift assay (EMSA). Reverse transcription and polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) was implemented to evaluate the transcription of inhibitor of apoptosis (IAP) genes. Apoptosis assessment showed that VES induces apoptotic cell death in human gastric carcinoma cells. In the following experiments, PDTC (100 µM) was used in cell treatment 2 h before VES. The decreased ratio of the nuclear and cytosolic NF-κBp65 protein level was induced by VES and PDTC reinforced this trend. PDTC treatment significantly enhanced the decrease of NF-κB-DNA binding activity induced by VES in human gastric SGC-7901. The decrease in protein expression of Bcl-2 as well as the increase in the protein expression of Bax were induced by VES treatment. The cleavage of caspase-9, caspase-3 and PARP was induced. There was no effect on the gene transcription of c-IAP-1, c-IAP-2, and x-linked IAP (XIAP) compared with the control group, whereas mRNA levels of survivin and the neuronal apoptosis inhibitory protein (NAIP) markedly decreased. Notably, pretreatment with PDTC reinforced all the above VES-induced effects. In conclusion, VES-induced apoptosis in SGC-7901 cells is accompanied by the inhibition of the NF-κB signaling pathway, including changes in Bcl-2 family members, cleavage of caspases and gene transcription of survivin and NAIP.