Matriptase, also known as membrane-type-serine-protease 1 (MT-SP 1), is a type II transmembrane serine protease involved in the activation of the precursor form of hepatocyte growth factor/scatter factor (pro-HGF/SF). Since HGF/SF is a well-known extracellular signal, which plays a key role in the control of invasive growth, we investigated the effects of matriptase inhibition in cell lines derived from colon (DLD-1) or prostate (PC-3) carcinomas. Biochemical analysis showed that matriptase was very efficient in the proteolytic conversion of the inactive HGF/SF precursor into HGF/SF. Inhibition of endogenous matriptase synthesis in DLD-1 or PC-3 cells by specific small interfering RNAs impaired the conversion of pro-HGF/SF into HGF/SF at the cell surface and inhibited cell scattering upon pro-HGF/SF stimulation. The same effect was observed after treatment of these cells with matriptase inhibitors of the 3-amidinophenylalanine-type, CJ-697 or CJ-730. Inhibition of matriptase significantly reduced invasion of the extracellular matrix as well. Interestingly, this reduction was observed even in the presence of pre-activated HGF/SF. It is concluded that matriptase plays a dual-role in the events unleashing the invasive phenotype, one 'upstream' from the HGF/SF signalling cascade and one 'downstream', most likely at the level of the plasminogen activation system. These data provide a proof of concept for the targeting of matriptase in the search for anti-invasive drugs.