Degradation of the extracellular matrix by matrix metalloproteinases (MMPs) is a crucial step in tumour invasion and metastasis. In human carcinomas, tumour cell–fibroblast interactions (TFIs) have been demonstrated to play a role in the up-regulation of MMP levels in tumours, and emmprin is a surface molecule on tumour cells that stimulates nearby fibroblasts to produce MMP-1, 2, and 3. T-cell lymphomas frequently show extranodal organ involvement and skin invasion, but a role for TFIs in their invasion has not been examined in detail. This study investigated TFIs in T-cell lymphomas with special reference to emmprin expression and MMP production. Immunohistochemically, only germinal centre cells and some histiocytes expressed emmprin in non-neoplastic lymph nodes (ten cases), while all T-cell lymphomas [14 cases of adult T-cell leukaemia/lymphoma (ATLL), six cases of lymphoblastic lymphoma, seven cases of anaplastic large cell lymphoma, and nine cases of angio-immunoblastic T-cell lymphoma] expressed emmprin strongly and diffusely. FACS analysis of peripheral blood from normal individuals revealed that small fractions of B-cells, T-cells, and monocytes expressed emmprin, whereas emmprin-expressing T-cells were much increased in number, and expressed this protein to a higher level, in ATLL patients. In vitro co-cultures of emmprin-positive HTLV-1-transformed lymphocytes (MT-2) and emmprin-negative human fibroblasts enhanced the production of pro-MMP-2 (gelatinase A) and active MMP-2, compared with cultures of either cell type alone. This stimulation was inhibited by an activity-blocking peptide against emmprin. Moreover, in histopathological sections from patients with ATL skin involvement, MMP-2 was demonstrated in fibroblasts around infiltrating ATL cells, but not in fibroblasts in non-diseased areas. In conclusion, emmprin is overexpressed by T-lymphoma cells, when compared with normal counterparts, and facilitates MMP-2 production via interactions with fibroblasts, which could play a role in stromal invasion by lymphoma cells. Copyright © 2004 Pathological Society of Great Britain and Ireland. Published by John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.