Matrix metalloproteinase (MMP)-2 and -9 are secreted and translocated from endometrial stromal cells to HEC-1 A cells in a steroid-dependent manner. We investigated the paracrine effect of hepatocyte growth factor (HGF) on MMPs and metalloproteinase tissue inhibitor (TIMP) expression in stromal and endometrial cancer cells, and correlated with cancer cell invasiveness in three-dimensional (3D) coculture. The 3D coculture of endometrial stromal and cancer cell lines (HEC-1 A, HEC-IB, or KLE) were maintained in the presence or absence of HGF. The expression of MMP-2 and -9, MT1-MMP, TIMP-1 and -2 were examined by RT-PCR and zymography. Under the same conditions, invasion of the cancer cells was quantified by Boyden's chamber assay. HGF strongly induced MMP-9 mRNA expression in stromal cells, but had little effect on MMP-2 mRNA. MT1-MMP mRNA was detected only in KLE and stromal cells, which was also increased by HGF. TIMP-1 and -2 mRNAs was ubiquitous with no dependence on HGF. Zymographic analysis of MMPs showed that activation of MMP-2 and -9 was enhanced by HGF. A significant increase in invasion of all three cancer cells with HGF was observed. The effect of HGF on the invasiveness of 3D cocultured endometrial cancer cells and stromal cells appears to be due to induction of MMP-9 mRNA expression in stromal cells and /or increased activation of MMP-2 and MMP-9 by proteolytic digestion.