We have developed and partially characterized a mouse model system for studying human prostate tumor cell metastases in vivo. To develop this model we have selected highly invasive (3 x I.) and non-invasive (3 x N.I.) PC-3 human prostatic tumor sublines based on enhanced and diminished capacities to migrate across a reconstituted basement membrane barrier (Matrigel) in Boyden chamber chemotactic assays. When the 3 x I. cells were injected intravenously (i.v.) in the tail vein of severe combined immune deficient (scid) mice, the cells initially metastasized to a wide variety of tissues as demonstrated by using [125I] IUdR labeled cells and histology. Four distinct sublines were eventually isolated which preferentially metastasized at approximately 80% efficiency to the lumbar vertebrae (PC-3 ML), the mandibular region of the right cheek (PC-3 MC), the rib cartilage (PC-3 MR), and the right front knee bone (PC-3 MK), respectively. Implantation experiments at different sites indicated that organ metastases may somehow be conferred on the tumor subclones by the host tissue.