Matrix metalloproteinases (MMPs) are commonly expressed in carcinomas including oral squamous cell carcinomas (OSCCs). On the other hand, some evidences suggested that ingredients of betel quid (BQ) inhibit the activity and/or expression of some MMPs thought to be the pathogenesis of oral submucous fibrosis. This study was to analyse whether MMP-1 expression is inhibited in OSCC specimens from BQ users and in cell lines survived from the challenge of BQ ingredients. We found that MMP-1 mRNA was expressed in all the tested 27 OSCC. Levels of MMP-1 mRNA and protein were significantly elevated in the tested five OSCC specimens than in their adjacent tissues (P<0.001 and 0.05, respectively). Esophageal carcinoma (CE81T/VGH) and OSCC (OECM-1) cell lines survived from the cytotoxic BQ extract (BQE) and arecoline selection process were found to express higher MMP-1 mRNA and protein levels, or to exhibit a significant acceleration of two-dimensional (2D) motility than their non-selected parental cells. The enhanced motility was further demonstrated to be specifically and significantly inhibited by the MMP-1 neutralizing antibody and/or by the transfection of an MMP-1 specific antisense oligodeoxynucleotide. These results suggest that in some carcinomas of the upper aerodigestive tract, BQ usage may upregulate MMP-1 expression in the survived tumour cells, and increase their mobility in an MMP-1-dependent manner.