Background BRCA-1 associated protein (BAP1) is a de-ubiquitinating enzyme that regulates gene expression. Recently, the BAP1 mutation and its involvement in cancer survival have been reported in a range of tumor types, including uveal melanoma, mesothelioma, renal cancers, and biliary tract cancers. However, the frequency of BAP1 mutation and down-regulation varies among tumor types, and little is known about the function of BAP1 silencing in cancer cells. Gallbladder carcinoma (GBC) is a type of biliary tract cancer with a poor prognosis. Few mutational studies have investigated the role of BAP1 in GBC, and no functional study in vitro-, or clinical studies about cancer survival have been done. Methods GBC cells were studied by following the small interfering RNA mediated silencing of BAP1 with regard to proliferation, migration, invasion, and drug sensitivity. We carried out genomic, epigenomic and immunohistochemical analyses to detect somatic BAP1 alterations in 47 GBC patients undergoing surgical resection. Results BAP1 depletion resulted in increased migration and invasion, but not proliferation, and also resulted in decreased sensitivity to bortezomib, a proteasome inhibitor. Suppressed expression of BAP1 occurred in 22 GBC cases (46.8%) and showed a strong trend toward a worse median survival time of 13.3 months (95% CI, 17.6–62.6) (p = 0.0034). Sanger sequencing revealed a loss-of-function mutation of BAP1 in 11 out of these 22 GBC cases (50%) with low BAP1 expression, whereas 2 out of 25 GBC cases (8%) were detected in cases with high BAP1 expression. Partial changes in methylation were observed in 6 out of 47 cases, but methylation did not show a strong relationship to BAP1 expression or to the prognosis. Conclusion Our findings showed that genetic mutations are involved in BAP1 down-regulation, leading to promotion of the invasive character of cancer cells and poor prognosis in GBC.