The Notch signaling pathway has been reported to play crucial roles in inhibiting hepatocyte differentiation and allowing formation of intrahepatic bile ducts. However, little is known about its significance in intrahepatic cholangiocarcinoma (ICC). The aim of the present study was to investigate the effects of Notch1 expression in ICC tissues and cells. The expression of Notch1 was examined in paraffin-embedded sections of ICC (n=44) by immunohistochemistry. Notch1 was knocked down by RNA interference (RNAi) in cultured ICC cells (RBE and HCCC-9810). The proliferation, invasiveness and sensitivity to 5-fluorouracil (5-FU) were detected by Cell Counting Kit-8 (CCK-8), colony formation assays, Transwell assays and flow cytometry, respectively. The expression levels of several multidrug resistance (MDR)-related genes, MDR1-P-glycoprotein (ABCB‑1), breast cancer resistance protein (ABCG‑2) and the multidrug resistance protein isoform 1 (MRP‑1), were examined by quantitative real-time polymerase chain reaction (qRT-PCR) and western blotting. Notch1 was overexpressed in cell membranes and cytoplasm of ICC compared with the adjacent liver tissue (35/44, 79.5%) and this was more common in cases with tumor size≥5 cm (p=0.021) and HBs-Ag positive (p=0.018). By silencing Notch1, the proliferation and invasiveness of ICC cells were inhibited and the inhibition rate of 5-FU was markedly increased. In addition, IC50 values of 5-FU in RBE cells were decreased from 148.74±0.72 to 5.37±0.28 µg/ml and the corresponding values for HCCC-9810 cells were 326.92±0.87 to 42.60±0.35 µg/ml, respectively. Furthermore, Notch1 silencing clearly increased the percentage of apoptotic cells treated by 5-FU compared with the control. Notch1 knockdown led to diminished expression levels of ABCB‑1 and MRP‑1. Therefore, Notch may play important roles in the development of ICC. Silencing Notch1 can inhibit the proliferation and invasiveness of ICC cells and increase their sensitivity to 5-FU in vitro.