The integrin alpha v beta 6 is a fibronectin receptor that is undetectable on normal keratinocytes in situ, but is increased significantly in wound healing and in culture-established keratinocytes, suggesting that it may promote changes associated with cell motility. Using normal human oral keratinocytes we have shown that cultured cells express relatively high levels of alpha v beta 6 and this integrin has a functional role in both cell adhesion and migration towards fibronectin. We provide experimental evidence that the increased expression of alpha v beta 6 by normal human oral keratinocytes results in coordinate changes, which promote a more migratory phenotype. Thus increased expression of alpha v beta 6 results in a fibronectin-dependent increase in pro-matrix metalloproteinase 9, matrix metalloproteinase 9 activity increases normal human oral keratinocyte migration, and this may be further dependent on plasmin activation. The results suggest a key role for alpha v beta 6 in these processes and indicate a coordinated link between alpha v beta 6 expression and upregulation of matrix metalloproteinase 9. It appears that alpha v beta 6 may function in normal human oral keratinocyte migration through matrix-metalloproteinase-9-dependent and -independent mechanisms.