Glycolysis is increased in cancer cells compared with normal cells. It has been shown that glucose enters cells via a family of five functional glucose transporters (GLUT). However, GLUT expression appears to be altered in human breast cancer, which may serve as a selective advantage and facilitate the metastatic potential of these cells. The relationship of GLUT isoform expression and breast cancer cell invasiveness has not been adequately addressed. Thus, the purpose of this study was to investigate whether an association exists between GLUT expression and human breast cancer cell invasiveness. Invasiveness of the human breast cancer lines MCF-7, MDA-MB-435 and MDA-MB-231 was measured using an in vitro assay and compared with cellular GLUT isoform expression, assessed by Western blot analysis and verified by immunohistochemistry in a poorly differentiated human ductal breast cancer. Cell surface GLUT-1 expression was associated with the invasive ability of MCF-7 (2.0 + 0.02%), MDA-MB-435 (6.4 +/- 0.4%), and MDA-MB-231 (19.3 +/- 2.0%). However, GLUT-2 and GLUT-5 were inversely associated with invasiveness; GLUT-3 expression was variable; and GLUT-4 was undetected. In a poorly differentiated human ductal breast cancer, in situ GLUT-1 staining was intense. GLUT-1 expression was associated with the in vitro invasive ability of human breast cancer cells which was validated in situ. If this relationship is found to exist in a larger number of human breast cancer tissues, it may be possible to develop diagnostic and therapeutic strategies based on targeted GLUT isoform expression.