Gelatinase A (type-IV collagenase; M(r) 72,000) is produced by tumour stroma cells and is believed to be crucial for their invasion and metastasis, acting by degrading extracellular matrix macro-molecules such as type IV collagen. An inactive precursor of gelatinase A (pro-gelatinase A) is secreted and activated in invasive tumour tissue as a result of proteolysis which is mediated by a fraction of tumour cell membrane that is sensitive to metalloproteinase inhibitors. Here we report the cloning of the complementary DNA encoding a new matrix metalloproteinase with a potential transmembrane domain. Expression of the gene product on the cell surface induces specific activation of pro-gelatinase A in vitro and enhances cellular invasion of the reconstituted basement membrane. Tumour cells of invasive lung carcinomas, which contain activated forms of gelatinase A, were found to express the transcript and the gene product. The new metalloproteinase may thus trigger invasion by tumour cells by activating pro-gelatinase A on the tumour cell surface.