Genetic alterations are involved in the development of human breast cancer. We sought to isolate genes that are differentially expressed or suppressed in cultured human breast carcinoma cells as compared to cultured normal human breast epithelial cells by employing differential screening of selected cDNA libraries. Analysis of several clones thus isolated revealed that the matrix Gla protein (MGP) gene is overexpressed in the breast cancer cell line 600 PEI, though is transcribed at lower levels in most other mammary derived cultures. MGP requires vitamin K dependent gamma-carboxylation for its known function and thus can be inhibited by vitamin K antagonists. This raises the possibility that MGP may be among those factors that when inhibited by vitamin K antagonists reduce metastases in experimental models. Among the gene whose transcription is consistently suppressed upon mammary transformation were fibronectin and the type I keratin, K14. Differential cDNA screening therefore is an effective method of identifying genes involved in various aspects of mammary cell transformation.