The ribonucleotide reductase (RR) gene has been associated with malignant transformation and metastatic potential. In this report, the significance of the expression of RR mRNA and enzymatic activity to the invasive potential was examined by Boyden chamber invasion assay. Our results suggest that overexpression of RR M2 mRNA and RR enzymatic activity correlates to an increase in cell invasive potential. The drug-induced HURs clone expressed a higher level RR M2 mRNA and enzyme activity which contributes significantly to the 3-fold increase in invasive potential of the cells observed relative to the KB wild-type control. On the contrary, the HUr revertant clone decreased the RR M2 mRNA level and enzymatic activity, concomitantly decreasing their invasive potential. This phenomenon is most likely due to the return of RR to levels comparable to that of the KB wild-type cells. To confirm that this observation was not of a drug-resistance phenotype associated with multiple gene alterations, the panel of RR transfectants (M1-D transfected M1 subunit cDNA, M2-D transfected M2 subunit cDNA, X-D transfected M1/M2 cDNA) characterized in a previous study were also tested in the invasion assay. The M2-D clone expressed 6-fold higher RR M2 mRNA and RR activity and also demonstrated 6-fold higher invasive potential in vitro than either the parental or vector only transfected cell line (KB-V). The X-D clone demonstrated 3-fold higher M2 mRNA expression and revealed 4-fold higher invasive potential than control cells. The M1-D clone, in contrast, expressed a baseline level of RR M2 mRNA and higher M1 mRNA. In contrast to the X-D and M2-D cells, the invasive potential of M1-D reached an even lower level in the invasive assay than the control. These results, therefore, suggest that RR M2 overexpression plays an important role in a tumor's invasiveness.