Although a number of effective therapies are available for localized prostate cancer, metastatic prostate cancer is difficult to treat and impossible to cure. Identification of the gene products that enable a prostatic carcinoma cell to metastasize should facilitate an understanding of the processes leading to metastasis. To characterize the contribution of matrix metalloproteinase-9 (MMP-9, gelatinase B or the 92-kd type IV gelatinase/collagenase) to the development of metastasis in prostate cancer, we reduced MMP-9 expression in metastatic murine prostatic carcinoma cells using a ribozyme. The ribozyme transfected cells had lower basal levels of MMP-9 as well as decreased levels after stimulation by transforming growth factor-beta or phorbol 12-myristate 13-acetate when compared with the parental cells or with control transfectants. The cells with down-regulated MMP-9 were unable to form lung colonies in the experimental metastasis assay, whereas the controls and parental cells readily formed metastases. All cell types readily formed tumors after injection and down-regulation of MMP-9 did not adversely affect the rate of tumor growth. Thus, MMP-9 expression is required for hematogenous metastasis in a murine prostate model system raising the possibility that it may play an equivalent role in human prostate cancer.