Several prognostic indices in breast cancer, including c-erbB2, epithelial growth factor receptors (EGFR), estrogen and progesterone receptors are signal transduction molecules. Recently, expression of another signal transduction molecule, the protein tyrosine phosphatase LAR, has been suggested to be increased in breast cancer. The objective of the current investigation was to examine the relationship between LAR expression and prognostic parameters in breast cancer. LAR expression was associated with metastatic potential in the well-characterized 13762NF rat mammary adenocarcinoma clones. The metastatic MTLn3 and MTLn2 clones expressed sizable amounts of LAR. The essentially non-metastatic MTC clone had little LAR expression. C-erbB2 had highest expression in the highly metastatic MTLn3 clone, but c-erbB2 levels were sizeable in the weakly metastatic MTLn2 and non-metastatic MTC clone. EGFR expression had the strongest association with a clone's metastatic potential, being very high in MTLn3, weak in MTLn2, and undetectable in MTC. In human breast cancer specimens, LAR expression was strongly positive in 50% of metastatic cases but in only 21% of 'non-metastatic' cases. As with the 13762NF-derived clones, c-erbB2 expression was strongly positive independent of metastatic phenotype. However, 46% (6/13) of cases that were strongly positive for c-erbB2 were strongly positive for LAR. Only 17% (2/11) of negative or weakly c-erbB2 positive samples were strongly positive for LAR. All ER+ positive tumors (n = 15) were positive for LAR and 53% of these tumors were strongly positive for LAR. In ER negative cases, only 1 of 11 was strongly positive for LAR. While the current data indicate a strong association between ER and LAR expression in breast cancer tissue (p = 0.003), additional studies are warranted to further explore the relationship between LAR and prognostic indices of breast cancer progression.