Recent evidence suggests that integrins are involved in the multi-step process of tumour metastasis. The biological relevance of αv integrins and associated β-subunits in ovarian cancer metastasis was examined by analysing the expression of these cell surface receptors in nine ovarian cancer cell lines and also in the primary human ovarian surface epithelial cell line (HOSE). β1, β3 and β5 subunits were present in all ten ovarian cell lines. β6 subunit was present at varying levels in eight out of nine cancer cell lines but was absent in the HOSE cell line. Immunohistochemical staining showed that β6 was present in both non-invasive (borderline) and high-grade ovarian cancer tissues but was absent in benign and normal ovarian tissue. High αvβ6 integrin expressing ovarian cancer cell lines had high cell surface expression of uPA and uPAR. Ovarian cancer cell lines expressing high to moderate level of αvβ6 integrin demonstrated ligand-independent enhanced levels of high molecular weight (HMW)-uPA and pro-matrix metalloproteinase 2 and 9 (pro-MMP-2 and pro-MMP-9) expression in the tumour-conditioned medium. High and moderate expression of αvβ6 integrin correlated with increased plasminogen-dependent degradation of extracellular matrix which could be inhibited by inhibitors of plasmin, uPA and MMPs or by monoclonal antibody against uPA, MMP-9 or αvβ6 integrin. These results suggest that endogenous de novo expression of αvβ6 integrin in ovarian cancer cells may contribute to their invasive potential, and that αvβ6 expression may play a role in ovarian cancer progression and metastasis.