A cell surface Mr approximately 90,000 glycoprotein (gp90) was found in higher amounts on brain-colonizing than on lung-colonizing murine B16 melanoma sublines. The possible role of gp90 in determining the brain-associated metastatic properties of B16 cells was examined by purifying the glycoprotein and studying the effects of anti-gp90 on the growth, adhesion, and organ colonization properties of B16 cells. The specificity of the anti-gp90 was demonstrated in immunoprecipitation studies where a cell surface- or metabolically labeled Mr approximately 90,000 glycoprotein of pI approximately 4 was exclusively found upon two-dimensional sodium dodecyl sulfate-polyacrylamide gel electrophoresis under reducing conditions. Immunoprecipitation analysis, enzyme-linked immunosorbent assays, and the lectin-binding properties of gp90 on lectin affinity columns indicated that it is a Mr approximately 180,000 disulfide-linked dimer, probably related to the transferrin receptor. B16 sublines selected for various organ colonization properties differentially expressed gp90, bound 125I-labeled transferrin, and responded differently to purified transferrin in proliferation assays in relation to their metastatic properties (B15b greater than O13 greater than F10 greater than F1). Anti-gp90 immunoglobulin G affected the growth of brain-colonizing B16-B15b more than B16-F1 cells, but had no effect on the adhesion of B16-B15b or -F1 cells to microvessel endothelial cells in vitro, and anti-gp90 immunoglobulin G F(ab')2 had little effect on the brain colonization properties of B16-B15b cells in syngeneic mice. In blocking assays, anti-gp90 inhibited the binding of 125I-labeled transferrin to B16-B15b cells in a dose-dependent manner. The results suggest that the differential growth-stimulating effects of transferrin on highly metastatic B16 melanoma cells may be due to their differential expression of a Mr approximately 90,000 glycoprotein that is related to the transferrin receptor. In organ sites, such as the brain, differential expression of a transferrin-like receptor may allow metastatic cells to respond to low concentrations of growth factors known to be present in certain organs.