In order to clarify the role of fibronectin in glioma invasion in vivo, we analyzed the relationship between fibronectin-stimulated cell migration and adhesion in 14 primary glioma cells and the expression of fibronectin and the fibronectin receptor in the corresponding tumor tissues. The tumors comprised nine glioblastomas (GB) and five anaplastic gliomas (AG) consisting of two astrocytomas, two oligoastrocytomas and one ependymoma. All glioma cells tested in the primary cell culture were found to migrate to fibronectin in a dose-dependent manner. The extent of cell migration to fibronectin was not significantly different for the GB and AG groups. On the other hand, cell adhesion to fibronectin in the AG was much stronger than that in the GB group. Immunohistochemistry demonstrated that fibronectin positively stained in the extra-cellular matrix (ECM) in eight cases and that the fibronectin receptor was positive in tumor cell membranes in 10 cases. In addition, cellular fibronectin isoforms containing ED-A and ED-B sequences were found to be immunolocalized in the tumor cells and the ECM of GB. These isoforms were also specifically expressed in tumor vessels within tumor tissues, but not in those within normal brain tissues. Cell migration tended to be expressed more strongly by glioma cells derived from tumor tissues in which fibronectin was posi-tively immunolocalized in the ECM than from tissues with negative fibronectin in the ECM. Four glioma cells derived from GB whose tumor cells did not positively stain for fibronectin receptors migrated much less extensively to fibronectin than other glioma cells whose tissues showed positive staining for the fibronectin receptor. Of these four GB, two had loss of heterozygosity in the locus of fibronectin receptor b1 gene. These results suggest that fibronectin deposited in the extracellular matrix of tumors, which can be derived from both plasma and the tumor cell itself, strongly promotes the migration of glioma cells, and that expression of the fibronectin receptor may play a critical role in the biological behavior of the tumor cells, particularly in fibronectin-stimulated cell migration in vivo.