Expression of the serine protease HtrA1 is decreased or abrogated in a variety of human primary cancers, and higher levels of HtrA1 expression are directly related to better response to chemotherapeutics. However, the precise mechanisms leading to HtrA1 down regulation during malignant transformation are unclear. To investigate HtrA1 gene regulation in breast cancer, we characterized expression in primary breast tissues and seven human breast epithelial cell lines, including two non-tumorigenic cell lines. In human breast tissues, HtrA1 expression was prominent in normal ductal glands. In DCIS and in invasive cancers, HtrA1 expression was greatly reduced or lost entirely. HtrA1 staining was also reduced in all of the human breast cancer cell lines, compared with the normal tissue and non-tumorigenic cell line controls. Loss of HtrA1 gene expression was attributable primarily to epigenetic silencing mechanisms, with different mechanisms operative in the various cell lines. To mechanistically examine the functional consequences of HtrA1 loss, we stably reduced and/or overexpressed HtrA1 in the non-tumorigenic MCF10A cell line. Reduction of HtrA1 levels resulted in the epithelial-to-mesenchymal transition with acquisition of mesenchymal phenotypic characteristics, including increased growth rate, migration, and invasion, as well as expression of mesenchymal biomarkers. A concomitant decrease in expression of epithelial biomarkers and all microRNA 200 family members was also observed. Moreover, reduction of HtrA1 expression resulted in activation of the ATM and DNA damage response, whereas overexpression of HtrA1 prevented this activation. Collectively, these results suggest that HtrA1 may function as a tumor suppressor by controlling the epithelial-to-mesenchymal transition, and may function in chemotherapeutic responsiveness by mediating DNA damage response pathways.