Mammalian LIM kinase 1 (LIMK1) phosphorylates and inactivates the actin-binding and -depolymerizing factor cofilin and induces actin cytoskeletal changes. LIMK1 is reported to play an important role in cell motility, but the mechanism of induction of cell motility and the role of LIMK1 in tumor growth, angiogenesis and invasion are poorly understood. Here we show that expression of LIMK1 in MDA-MB-435 human breast cancer cells enhanced cell proliferation and cell invasiveness and promoted in vitro angiogenesis. Since tumor metastasis requires degradation of the extracellular matrix by the serine protease urokinase type plasminogen activator (uPA), we examined the role of LIMK1 in the regulation of uPA/uPAR system. LIMK1 overexpression in breast cancer cells upregulated the uPA system, increased uPA promoter activity, induced uPA and uPAR mRNA and protein expression and induced uPA secretion. In contrast, cells transfected with the catalytically inactive LIMK mutant D460N-LIMK1 did not exhibit these phenotypic changes. Blocking antibodies against uPA and uPAR suppressed LIMK1-induced cell invasiveness. In addition, LIMK1 overexpression increased tumor growth in female athymic nude mice, promoted tumor angiogenesis and induced metastasis to livers and lungs, possibly by increasing uPA expression in the tumors. Finally, LIMK1 and uPAR were coordinately overexpressed in human breast tumors. These results suggested an important role for LIMK1 signaling in breast cancer tumor growth, angiogenesis and invasion and a regulatory connection between LIMK1 and the uPA system. © 2005 Wiley-Liss, Inc.