The interaction of neoplastic cells with the extracellular matrix is a critical event for the initiation of cancer invasion and metastasis. This study was designed to evaluate the potential implication of stromelysin-3 (ST3), a newly identified member of the matrix-degrading metalloproteinase family, and of BM-40/SPARC, a glycoprotein associated with the extracellular matrix, during the progression of human colorectal cancers. We analyzed the relative abundance of ST3 and BM-40/SPARC transcripts by Northern blot, and their distribution by in situ hybridization, in normal mucosa, benign adenomas, and primary colorectal adenocarcinomas and their liver metastases. The ST3 and BM-40/SPARC transcripts were overexpressed in primary colorectal cancers and their liver metastases compared to non-neoplastic mucosa. These transcripts were localized in stromal fibroblasts adjacent to the neoplastic foci. Overexpression of ST3 correlated with the progression of human colorectal tumors toward local invasion and liver metastasis. Induction of these genes also occurred in diverticulitis and digestive neoplasms such as gastric and esophageal carcinomas.