In this work we report the presence of intrametastatic smooth-muscle iso-α-actin (SMA)-expressing cells which appeared from the early stages of the hepatic metastasis process of intrasplenically injected B16 melanoma (B16M) cells. They formed a network of stromal cells among B16M cells, a very low percentage of them expressing desmin. In contrast, those parts of liver tissue unaffected by metastasis had perisinusoidal desmin-expressing quiescent hepatic stellate cells (qHSC) which did not express SMA. Exposure of freshly isolated rat quiescent hepatic stellate cells (qHSC) to B16M cell-conditioned medium (B16M-CM) leads to a progressive increase (P < .01) in the number of SMA-expressing cells, which was accompanied by a parallel reduction in the number of desmin-expressing cells. In addition, B16M-CM also contained chemotactic factor(s) which significantly (P < .01) increased (50%) in vitro qHSC migration and stimulated both [3H]thymidine and [3H]glucosamine uptake in qHSC. Moreover, B16M-CM also significantly (P < .01) enhanced qHSC secretion of matrix metalloproteinase-2 (MMP-2), and unknown chemotactic factor(s) enhancing in vitro migration of B16M cells. The results suggest that B16 melanoma releases qHSC-activating factors, which induce the appearance of metastasis-infiltrating myofibroblasts by a paracrine mechanism. Such cells showed cytoskeletal alterations which are associated with enhanced proliferation, glycosaminoglycan synthesis, MMP-2 secretion, and tumor-chemotactic factor production. Thus, tumor-activated qHSC may play an important role in melanoma cell motility and invasion during hepatic metastasis progression.