Eph receptor tyrosine kinases and their ephrin ligands have been implicated in neuronal development and neovascularization. Overexpression of ephrin-A1 has been implicated in tumor progression and poor prognosis. However, the mechanisms are not clear. Here, we report a role of the Eph/ephrin system in a cell adhesion mechanism. Clustered erythropoietin-producing hepatocellular receptor A1 (EphA1)/ephrin-A1 complexes on the plasma membrane did not undergo endocytosis, and the cell remained adherent to one another. The cell-cell contacts were maintained in an Eph tyrosine kinase activity-independent manner even in the absence of E-cadherin. EphA1 and ephrin-A1 co-localized in pulmonary endothelial cells, and regulated vascular permeability and metastasis in the lungs. We identified ADAM12 (A disintegrin and metalloproteinase 12) as an EphA1-binding partner by yeast two-hybrid screening and found that ADAM12 enhanced ephrin-A1 cleavage in response to transforming growth factor-β1 in primary tumors. Released soluble ephrin-A1 in the serum deteriorated the EphA1/ephrin-A1-mediated cell adhesion in the lungs in an endocrine manner, causing lung hyperpermeability that facilitated tumor cell entry into the lungs. Depletion of soluble ephrin-A1 by its neutralizing antibody significantly inhibited lung metastasis.