Glioblastoma multiforme is a highly malignant tumor that is extremely refractory to therapy. One reason is its highly invasive nature into brain tissue. Metalloproteinases and their inhibitors, plasminogen activators (PA) and their inhibitors and cathepsins are thought to be involved in invasion by tumor cells. In this study, we determined if the urokinase-type plasminogen activator (uPA) and/or the urokinase-type plasminogen activator receptor (uPAR) were responsible for the invasion activity of a human glioma cell line. We determined the invasion activity of a human glioma U251 cell line using an in vitro invasion assay system. A 2.4- to 5.8-fold increase in invasion activity was observed in the presence of basic fibroblast growth factor (bFGF) or transforming growth factor (TGF)-alpha. Northern blot analysis showed that bFCF and TGF-alpha treatment was associated with increases in cellular mRNA levels of uPA and uPAR. Zymographic activity correlated to mRNA levels of uPA and uPAR. Addition of an anti-uPAR monoclonal antibody significantly inhibited the invasion activity induced by bFGF- and TGF-alpha. Irsogladine, an inhibitor of uPA synthesis, also blocked the invasion activity. These observations suggest that uPA and its receptor have a role in the invasion process of human gliomas.