Matrix metalloproteinases (MMPs) are believed to contribute to the complex process of cancer progression. They also exhibit an alpha1-proteinase inhibitor (alphaPI)-degrading activity generating a carboxyl-terminal fragment of approximately 5 kd (alphaPI-C). This study reports that overexpression of alphaPI-C in S2-020, a cloned subline derived from the human pancreas adenocarcinoma cell line SUIT-2, potentiates the growth capability of the cells in nude mice. After stable transfection of a vector containing a chimeric cDNA encoding a signal peptide sequence of tissue inhibitor of metalloproteinase-1 followed by cDNA for alphaPI-C into S2-020 cells, three clones that stably secrete alphaPI-C were obtained. The ectopic expression of alphaPI-C did not alter in vitro cellular growth. However, subcutaneous injection of the alphaPI-C-secreting clones resulted in tumors that were 1.5 to 3-fold larger than those of control clones with an increased tendency to invasiveness and lymph node metastasis. These effects could be a result of modulation of natural killer (NK) cell-mediated control of tumor growth in nude mice, as the growth advantage of alphaPI-C-secreting clones was not observed in NK-depleted mice, and alphaPI-C-secreting clones showed decreased NK sensitivity in vitro. In addition, production of alphaPI and generation of the cleaved form of alphaPI by MMP were observed in various human tumor cell lines and in a highly metastatic subline of SUIT-2 in vitro. These results provide experimental evidence that the alphaPI-degrading activity of MMPs may play a role in tumor progression not only via the inactivation of alphaPI but also via the generation of alphaPI-C.