Expression of differentiation and adhesion cell surface antigens (LewisX - CD15, CD44, syndecan 1 - CD138 and basigin/EMMPRIN - CD147) were determined on the cell surface of human breast carcinoma MCF7 cells in vitro with the aid of flow cytometry and compared with that of MCF-7/6 cells, with functionally defective E-cadherin system and increased biological aggressiveness. The major cell surface alterations in MCF-7/6 cells compared with the parental MCF-7 cell line were a markedly increased CD15 (LewisX) and CD44 antigen cell surface expression on MCF-7/6 cells. There were no major differences between parental MCF-7 and MCF-7/6 cells in cell surface syndecan 1, basigin/EMMPRIN, E-cadherin and high affinity non-integrin laminin receptor expression. The constitutive cell surface gelatinase A and B activities were absent on MCF-7 and faint in MCF-7/6 cells. Both phorbol ester TPA and tumor necrosis factor TNF-alpha induced a marked up-regulation of gelatinase B only in MCF-7/6 cells. No marked differences in penetration of MCF-7 vs. MCF-7/6 cells into collagen/fibroblast matrix in vitro were observed. The increased expression of CD15 (LewisX), CD44 antigen and TNF-alpha-inducible gelatinase B on MCF-7/6 cells may represent auxiliary factors contributing to the increased biological aggressiveness of MCF-7/6 cells.