The ADAMs are a multi-functional gene family, some of which have been shown to play a role in diverse biological processes such as fertilization, myogenesis, neurogenesis and the activation of growth factors/immune regulators such as TNF-alpha. So-named because they possess both A Disintegrin And Metalloprotease domain, the ADAMs have potential implications for the metastasis of human tumour cells via cell adhesion and protease activities. However, no studies have yet comprehensively examined the expression or regulation of ADAMs in solid tumours. Therefore, the aim of this study was to examine the expression of the ADAMs in human prostate cancer cell lines and to examine their possible regulation by androgen, a primary hormonal regulator of prostate cancer cell proliferation and metastasis. Applying RT-PCR, ADAM-9, -10, -11, -15 and -17 mRNA expression was found in the androgen-dependent prostate cancer cell lines, LNCaP and ALVA-41 and the androgen-independent cell lines, DU-145 and PC-3. Northern blotting of LNCaP cell total RNA revealed transcripts for ADAM-9 (3.8 kb), ADAM-10 (4.4, 3.2 and 0.54 kb), ADAM-15 (3 kb) and ADAM-17 (4 and 2.6 kb). ADAM-11 transcript was not detected by Northern blotting possibly due to low levels of ADAM-11 mRNA expression. This is the first report of ADAM expression in prostate cancer cell lines. Since androgens are implicated in prostate cancer cell growth and maintenance, the regulation of ADAMs by dihydrotestosterone (DHT) was investigated in the androgen-dependent cell line LNCaP. It was shown by quantitative RT-PCR using continuous fluorescence monitoring that ADAM-10 mRNA expression was regulated in a bell shaped, dose-dependent manner by DHT. Maximum stimulation was observed at 1.0 nM DHT (5-fold significant increase). For ADAM-9 mRNA, a significant upregulation was found at 1.0 and 10 nM (1.5-1.7-fold increase). In contrast, ADAM-17 mRNA, was significantly inhibited at 0.1 and 1.0 nM (1.7-fold decrease). This is the first report, to our knowledge, illustrating hormonal regulation of ADAM mRNA. The novel data described here also provide a strong stimulus to the development of specific quantitative and functional assays for particular ADAMs. These assays, which are not yet available, are required to enable subsequent investigation, both in vitro and in vivo, of the specific roles of each ADAM in prostate cancer cell proliferation, cell motility and invasion.