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To understand the molecular mechanisms of metastasis and prognosis of colorectal cancer (CRC), we isolated single cell-derived progenies (SCPs) from SW480 cellsin vitroand compared their metastatic potential in an orthotopic CRC tumour modelin vivo. Two groups of SCPs with the capability of high and low metastasis, respectively, were obtained. By analysing the gene expression profiles of high (SCP51), low (SCP58) metastatic SCPs, and their parental cell line (SW480/EGFP), we demonstrated that 143 genes were differentially expressed either between SCP51 and SCP58 or between SCP58 and SW480/EGFP. Gene-annotation enrichment analysis of DAVID revealed 80 genes in the top ten clusters of the analysis (gene enrichment score > 1). Of the 80-gene set, 32 genes are potentially involved in metastasis, as revealed by Geneclip. Five putative metastatic genes (LYN, SDCBP, MAP4K4, DKK1, andMID1) were selected for further validations. Immunohistochemical analysis in a cohort of 181 CRC clinical samples showed that the individual expression of LYN, MAP4K4, and MID1, as well as the five-gene signature, was closely correlated with lymph node metastasis in CRC patients. More importantly, the individual expression of LYN, MAP4K4, SDCBP, and MID1, as well as the five-gene signature, was significantly correlated with overall survival in CRC patients. Thus, our five-gene signature may be able to predict metastasis and survival of CRC in the clinic, and opens new perspectives on the biology of CRC. Copyright © 2009 Pathological Society of Great Britain and Ireland. Published by John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.