During cancer progression, tumor cells interact with stromal cells. As a consequence, matrix metalloproteinases are produced that contribute to the degradation of the extracellular matrix. This study used coculture systems to investigate fibroblast interaction with three colon cancer cell lines isolated from a single patient. Cells from primary colorectal carcinoma, but not from corresponding liver or lymph node metastases, induced gelatinase B expression by fibroblasts of different tissue origin. Remarkably, direct cell-cell contact was required for this induction, which occurred at the pretranslational level (as revealed by Northern blot analysis) and was completely blocked by anti-beta1 integrin monoclonal antibody, but only partially blocked by anti-alpha5 or anti-alpha(v). Induction was also inhibited by cytochalasin D, staurosporine, or dexamethasone, suggesting the need, respectively, for an organized actin cytoskeleton, protein kinase C, and AP-1-driven gene transcription. Our data suggest that direct tumor-stromal cell contact is one inductive event involved in matrix metalloproteinase expression by stromal cells.