Cell adhesion to and migration through extracellular matrices (ECM) are critical events in tumor invasion and metastasis. Previous work by us had demonstrated that signaling of epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) confers an oncogenic phenotype on NR6 cells and that these cells when transfected with hole EGFR demonstrate greater motility and invasiveness than cells carrying a carboxy-terminal truncated EGFR. Recently, a cell surface glycoprotein, CD44, has been implicated in cell-ECM adhesion involved in tumor cell migration, signal transduction, and metastasis. We investigated whether EGF regulates cellular interactions with ECM components, and in particular, hyaluronate, by modulating CD44 expression. In vitro cell attachment assays on hyaluronate-coated plates demonstrated similar basal level of binding (~33%) for murine NR6 parental cells devoid of endogenous EGFR (P) or expressing wild-type EGFR (WT), while a time-dependent increase in binding was observed in WT cells stimulated with EGF. Additionally, utilizing monoclonal antibody blocking assays, CD44, but not EGFR, was shown to be directly involved in this attachment. Both WT and P cells possessed equivalent 95 kDa bands on immunoblots, corresponding to CD44. The existence of CD44 mRNA was verified by RT-PCR using synthetic oligonucleotides in which a 1.1 kb cDNA was detected in both cell lines and confirmed by DNA sequencing. After 24-h exposure to exogenous EGF, an increase in CD44 protein and mRNA expression was found in WT cells, but not in P cells, supporting the contention that a functional EGFR signaling pathway is required for CD44 regulation. Thus, EGF stimulates cell binding to hyaluronate in vitro by regulating CD44 expression.