Aberrant expression or activity of the epidermal growth factor (EGF) receptor family of tyrosine kinases has been associated with tumor progression and an invasive phenotype. In this study, we utilized 4 ovarian cancer cell lines, OVCA 432, DOV 13, OVEA6 and OVCA 429, to determine the effects of EGF on the regulation of proteolytic enzymes and their inhibitors, cellular migration and in vitro invasion. Induction of urinary-type plasminogen activator (u-PA) activity and tissue inhibitor of matrix metalloproteinase (TIMP)-1 was observed in all 4 cell lines. OVCA 432 cells showed strong PAI-1 induction; however, the other 3 lines displayed substantial baseline PAI-1 expression that was not induced by EGF. EGF-dependent stimulation of migration and induction of matrix metalloproteinase (MMP)-9 (gelatinase B) was observed in OVEA6 and OVCA 429 cells only. Upon EGF receptor activation, DOV 13, OVEA6 and OVCA 429 cells were induced to invade through an artificial basement membrane (Matrigel); however, no invasion was detected in OVCA 432 cells. Cell lines displaying induction of migration and MMP-9 (OVEA6 and OVCA 429) demonstrated robust EGF-induced invasion (5- to 20-fold), and cell invasion was substantially reduced in the presence of anti-catalytic MMP-9 antibody. Addition of anti-catalytic u-PA antibody inhibited the modest (<2-fold) EGF-induced invasion in a cell line that did not express MMP-9 (DOV 13) and in OVEA6 cells that displayed the highest baseline u-PA activity. Together, our findings indicate that multiple proteinases are important in ovarian cell invasion and implicate EGF induction of MMP-9 and migration as key components of more aggressive ligand-induced invasion.