To investigate the expression of tissue factor (TF) and tissue factor pathway inhibitor (TFPI) in human colorectal carcinomas, Northern blot analysis was performed in a series of human colorectal carcinoma cell lines and in normal or tumoral colorectal tissues. Of 16 human colorectal carcinoma cell lines examined, most expressed TF mRNA, though the levels of expression varied significantly. Considerably higher expression was observed in the cell line CaR-1, while lines established from metastatic lesions tended to express abundant TF mRNA. By contrast, TFPI mRNA levels were low in these high TF-expressing cell lines. TFPI was expressed abundantly in WiDr and in a few other cell lines which expressed a very low level of TF mRNA. Immunocytochemically, both proteins were stained predominantly on the cell surface; however, diffuse cytoplasmic staining for TF also was observed in CaR-1 cells. In addition, the cell surface TF activity was significantly higher in CaR-1 cells than in WiDr cells, confirming the results of mRNA analysis. The level of TF mRNA in colorectal carcinoma tissue in vivo and its ratio to the normal counterpart also varied significantly among the cases. To search for a possible role of TF/TFPI in metastasis of colorectal carcinoma cells, the expression of these genes was compared between a rectal adenocarcinoma cell line, RCM-1, and its highly metastatic subline, RCM-1 L-10. Compared with the parent line, RCM-1 L-10 expressed 7.5-fold higher levels of TF mRNA, whereas TFPI expression was not altered significantly or even decreased slightly. The higher cellular TF activity was confirmed in the metastatic subline in comparison with the parent line.