The human cell-surface antigen epithelial glycoprotein-2 recognized by the monoclonal antibody MOC-31 is an epithelial tumour-associated glycoprotein expressed in non-squamous carcinomas. MOC-31 immunoreactivity was investigated in human breast, colon, ovarian and lung cancer cell lines, grown either in vitro or in severe combined immunodeficient (SCID) mice as solid tumours and/or metastases. Three of four small-cell lung cancer cell lines (NCI-H69, OH3 and SW2) and three of four ovarian cancer cell lines (SoTü 1, 3 and 4) expressed epithelial glycoprotein-2. In contrast, all three breast (MCF-7, BT20, T47D) and all three colon (HT29, CACO2, SW480) cancer cell lines strongly reacted with monoclonal antibody MOC-31. A notable difference in MOC-31 immunoreactivity was observed in spontaneously formed lung metastases of HT29 colon cancer cells. Whereas larger metastases (> 30 cells) re acted with a similar staining pattern to the primary tumour, smaller metastases did not. These findings indicate that differentiation processes during the epithelial–mesenchymal transition occur in metastases, which lead to a transient loss of epithelial glycoprotein-2 expression during the migratory and early post- migratory period. This loss of antigen expression indicates that the process of metastases formation is a regulatory event, and this transient loss of antigen expression might represent a potential obstacle to antibody-based therapy in the setting of minimal residual disease.