Interaction of tumor cells with platelets facilitates metastasis of tumor cells. It has been proposed that platelets protect tumor cells against the host's immune defense and enhance tumor-cell extravasation. In the present work we show that platelets increase the invasiveness of 3 mammalian cell lines (MCF-7, ZR-51 and MDA-MB231) through extracellular matrix, and propose this as an additional mechanism by which platelets facilitate metastasis. Since gelatinase and urokinase have both been implicated in degradation of the extracellular matrix and cell migration, and therefore in tumor invasion, we have also analyzed whether the interaction of platelets with tumor cells can modify the secretion of these proteases by tumor cells. MDA-MB231, which was the most invasive cell line among the 3 tested and was the most potent in inducing platelet aggregation, secreted the highest level of urokinase and was the only one in which gelatinase was detected. While platelets had no significant effect on the urokinase activity expressed by these cells, they induced in MDA-MB231 an important increase in the secretion of gelatinase, which can be reproduced by both platelet membrane and platelet releasate of activated platelets. This increase in gelatinase could be responsible, at least in part, for the increased invasiveness of these cells, since added TIMP-1 significantly reduced the number of cells which traversed matrigel. © 1995 Wiley-Liss, Inc.