We have reported that transin RNA, a 1.9-kb RNA coding for a novel, secreted proteinase, was overexpressed during the progression of benign mouse skin papillomas to malignant squamous cell carcinomas (SCCs) induced by a two-stage protocol (Proc Natl Acad Sci USA 83:9413, 1986). Recently a high degree of similarity has been demonstrated between rabbit stromelysin, a secreted metalloproteinase that degrades proteoglycans found in the basement membrane and the amino acid sequence predicted in rat transin cDNA. DNA sequencing of a mouse cDNA isolated from an SCC (initiated by 7,12-dimethylbenz[a]anthracene [DMBA] and promoted by 12-O-tetradecanoylphorbol-13-acetate [TPA]) showed greater than 85% nucleotide similarity and 90% amino acid similarity to the rat transin-1 cDNA nucleotide and predicted amino acid sequences. Using this mouse transin cDNA clone as a probe (labeled with 32P) we found enhanced levels of transin mRNA transcripts in SCCs induced by a protocol giving rise to metastatic tumors (repeated N-methyl-N-nitroso-N'-nitroguanidine [MNNG] treatments) compared with the level found in SCCs induced by a protocol that had a lower probability of giving rise to metastatic tumors (MNNG initiation followed by TPA promotion). A study of primary SCCs and metastatic lesions induced by repeated benzo[a]pyrene treatment showed that the levels of transin mRNA transcripts were reduced in the metastatic lesions in comparison to the primary tumors. Southern analysis of the DNA isolated from epidermis, papillomas, and SCCs indicated that neither transin gene amplification nor rearrangement accounted for increased levels of the transin mRNA transcripts. These data suggest a role for enhanced levels of transin production in the invasion and metastasis of chemically induced SCCs.