For better understanding of cancer metastasis, we have established an in vivo model for induction of highly metastatic hepatocellular carcinomas (HCC) in male F344 rats. From 1 tumor, 4 cell lines with differing metastatic potential (C1, C2, C6, C5F) were established by subcloning using the limited-dilution cloning technique. Two other lines, N1 and L2, arose from another primary HCC and a lung metastatic lesion, respectively. Although cell adhesion of each cell line in culture medium was different, tumors developing in the subcutis of nude mice after transplantation were all moderately differentiated HCC with a trabecular pattern. On subcutaneous injection into nude mice, all 6 cell lines proved to be tumorigenic in the injection site and C5F was highly metastatic to the lung. With injection into the tail vein, N1 and L2 formed frequent metastases in the lung as well as in lymph nodes. Using intraperitoneal injection, C1, C6, N1 and L2 showed marked disseminated growth in the abdominal cavity with bloody ascitis. Northern blot analysis revealed expression of known metastasis-related genes, KAI1 and heparanase, to be decreased in C5F, but no differences in expression of nm23-H1 were evident. A point mutation in the GSK-3β phosphorylation site of the β-catenin gene was found in L2. These transplantable HCC cell lines that have different metastatic ability should be useful for elucidation of mechanisms of metastasis. © 2001 Wiley-Liss, Inc.