Cathepsin L is a kind of cystein proteases which are known to facilitate the invasion and metastasis of tumor cells by degrading the components of basement membrane and extracellular matrix. This study was undertaken to investigate the expression of cathepsin L by Northern blot analysis with radiolabeled cDNA specific for cathepsin L in six normal tissues, two osteosarcoma cell lines, MG-63 and Saos-2, six primary bone tumors and six metastatic bone tumors. In six normal tissues, the highest level of cathepsin L was expressed in liver with the descending order of liver > lung > thymus > ovary > kidney > esophagus. One of the two osteosarcoma cell lines established from the primary sites expressed a high level of cathepsin L mRNA. Out of six primary bone tumors, three (50%) expressed cathepsin L mRNA, while all (100%) of six metastatic bone tumors expressed the mRNA. These results demonstrating the higher frequency of expression of cathepsin L in metastatic bone tumors suggest that cathepsin L may participate in tumor invasion and metastasis.