Prostate cancer selectively metastasises to the bone. To investigate the importance of prostate epithelial cell adhesion to bone marrow cells in this process we examined the binding of human primary prostatic epithelial cells (PEC) to human bone marrow stromal cultures (BMS). We found that PEC derived from both malignant and benign tissue showed greater adhesion to BMS than to benign prostatic fibroblasts (median difference was 340% and 200% respectively), skin fibroblasts or plastic tissue culture plates. Adhesion to BMS grown from the bone marrow of patients with prostatic skeletal metastases was no different from those grown from normal bone marrow. The role of integrin molecules in these cell interactions was determined. Collagen type I and fibronectin were found to increase PEC adhesion whereas vitronectin and laminin did not. Inhibition studies demonstrated that although there was heterogeneity between samples, antibodies against the integrins alpha2 and beta1 consistently inhibited PEC binding to BMS. This result was more marked for PEC derived from malignant tissue. However studies investigating the effects of disintegrins and anti-alpha3 and anti-alpha5 integrins indicated that for a percentage of patients these integrins and RGD (arginine, glycine, aspartamine)-dependent binding pathways were also involved. In summary, the results indicate that BMS are adherent to primary PEC derived from both malignant and benign tissue. The integrin alpha2beta1 is a major contributor to this interaction.