We have already presented a two-dimensional cell motility assay using a highly metastatic variant (L-10) of human rectal adenocarcinoma cell line RCM-1 as a motility model of tumour cells of epithelial origin. In this model, L-10 cells showed locomotion as a coherent sheet when stimulated with 12-O-tetradecanoylphorbol-13-acetate (TPA), and we called this type of movement "cohort migration". Electron and immunoelectron microscopic study of the migrating cell sheets demonstrated localized release from cell-cell adhesion only at the lower portion of the cells with loss of E-cadherin immunoreactivity, and this change was associated with increased tyrosine phosphorylation of the E-cadherin-catenin complex, including beta-catenin. Cell-extracellular matrix (ECM) interactions involved in this TPA-induced cohort migration and their effect on tyrosine phosphorylation of the E-cadherin-catenin complex have now been investigated. L-10 cell cohort migration was almost completely inhibited by addition of Arg-Gly-Asp (RGD) peptide into the medium, and thus RGD dependent. Cohort migration was stimulated on type I and IV collagens, fibronectin (FN)- and laminin-coated substratum, but was inhibited by RGD only on FN-coated surface. By using immunofluorescent techniques, FN was demonstrated preferentially around migrating cells, and a protein synthesis inhibitor, cycloheximide, inhibited the migration by about 75%. FN produced by L-10 cells were found to be mostly EDA+ FN when analysed by RT-PCR. Moreover, anti-FN antibody, but not anti-vitronectin antibody, inhibited the TPA-induced cohort migration almost completely. Thus, it was likely that L-10 cells produced FN themselves and moved on the FN substrate in an RGD-dependent manner. However, stimulation of migration by type I collagen coating and inhibition by RGD treatment did not affect the tyrosine phosphorylation of the E-cadherin-catenin complex induced by TPA, indicating that cell-cell interactions were adjusted to suit cell migration, irrespective of the condition of cell-ECM adhesion, during TPA-induced cohort migration.