Increased expression of EGF receptor (EGFR) in metastases of human mammary carcinoma as compared to cells of the primary cancer suggests a contribution of EGFR to mammary carcinoma metastasis. To test for a positive causative link, we investigated 13762NF rat mammary adenocarcinoma cloned tumor cell lines of high (MTLn3) or low (MTC) metastatic potential. While MTC cells expressed barely detectable amounts of EGFR, MTLn3 cells expressed readily detectable levels of functional receptors. A full length cDNA of the human EGFR (HER) was introduced by infection with a retroviral vector into MTC cells. Expression of HER was stable and receptors were functional with respect to surface expression, ligand binding and EGF-stimulated phosphorylation. Independent clones of the transfectants were isolated and characterized. Ligand stimulation of MTC HER cells and derived clones led to enhanced adhesion of cells to extracellular matrix proteins. Implantation of cells intravenously into female nu/nu mice revealed ligand-dependent enhancement of lung colonizing potential of EGFR-expressing cells.