We examined the tumorigenic and metastatic potentials of three human non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) cell lines, PC-14, A549 or Lu-99 cell lines suspended in Matrigel-containing phosphate-buffered saline were orthotopically implanted into the lungs of nude mice. The formation of a solitary tumor nodule in the lung was observed after the implantation of all cell lines. Intrapulmonary implantation of PC-14 or Lu-99 cells resulted in spontaneous distant metastases. In contrast, A549 cells caused multiple intrapulmonary metastases to the right and left lobes of the lung without producing visible lymphatic metastasis. We also investigated the expression of matrix metalloproteinases (MMPs), urokinase-type plasminogen activator (u-PA), u-PA receptor (u-PAR) and c-MET in these cell lines in vitro and in vivo. Reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) analysis showed that the expression of MMP-2 and membrane-type 1 MMP (MT1-MMP) was elevated in PC-14 as compared with the other two cell lines. In contrast, stronger expression of c-MET was observed in A549 than in PC-14 or Lu-99. These results indicate that differential patterns of metastasis of lung cancer might be associated with differential expression of metastasis-associated molecules. Our orthotopic implantation models display clinical features resembling those of NSCLC, and may provide a useful basis for lung cancer research.