Tumor cell extravasation is a determinant step in the process of hematogenous metastasis. The signal transduction pathways involved in the interactions between tumor cells and the vascular endothelium during transendothelial migration are still undefined. In the present study, we have investigated the influence of human breast adenocarcinoma cells (MCF7) on human umbilical vein endothelial cell (HUVEC) intracellular Ca2+ concentration ([Ca2+]i). We show that the contact between MCF7 cells and a confluent HUVEC monolayer induces an immediate and transient increase in HUVEC [Ca2+]i. This [Ca2+]i rise could not be elicited by tumor cell-conditioned medium, isolated tumor cell membranes, inert beads or normal breast epithelial cells, demonstrating the involvement of specific recognition mechanisms between MCF7 cells and HUVEC. Depletion of HUVEC intracellular Ca2+ stores by the endoplasmic reticulum Ca2+-ATPase inhibitor thapsigargin as well as the selective depletion of inositol 1,4,5-triphosphate (IP3)-sensitive Ca2+ stores by prior activation of HUVEC using histamine resulted in a complete inhibition of tumor cell-induced [Ca2+]i elevation. Similar results were obtained when HUVEC monolayers were treated with the tyrosine kinase inhibitor herbimycin A, suggesting a role for tyrosine kinase-associated cell surface receptors in tumor cell-endothelial cell interactions. The depletion of HUVEC intracellular Ca2+ stores by thapsigargin was also shown to delay MCF7-induced endothelial cell disjunction, to prevent their spreading on the subendothelial extracellular matrix and transendothelial migration in vitro. These results suggest that transient changes in endothelial [Ca2+]i may govern multiple steps of tumor cell extravasation.