Interactions between tumour cells and the extracellular matrix (ECM) strongly influence tumour development, affecting cell survival, proliferation and migration. Many of these interactions are mediated through a family of cell surface receptors named integrins. Fibronectin and its integrin receptors play important roles in tumour development. The alpha5beta 1 integrin interacts with the central cell adhesive region of fibronectin and requires both the RGD and synergy sites for maximal binding. Matrix metalloproteinases (MMPs) are a family of zinc dependent endopeptidases. They are capable of digesting the different components of the ECM and basement membrane. The ECM gives structural support to cells and plays a central role in cell adhesion, differentiation, proliferation and migration. Binding of ECM to integrins modulates expression and activity of the different MMPs. Our experimental findings demonstrate that cultivation of human breast cancer cells, MCF-7, in serum free medium in the presence of fibronectin upregulates the activity of MMP-2 and MMP-9. Blocking of alpha5beta 1 integrin with anti-alpha5 monoclonal antibody inhibits the fibronectin-induced MMP activation response appreciably. This strongly indicates alpha5beta 1 mediated signalling events in activation of MMP-2 and MMP-9. Phosphorylation of FAK and PI-3 kinase and the nuclear translocation of ERK and NF-kappaB upon fibronectin binding demonstrate possible participation of the FAK/PI-3K/ERK signalling pathways in the regulation of MMP-2 activity.