Background: Ovarian carcinoma (OvCa) is the most lethal gynecological malignancy among women and its poor prognosis is mainly due to metastasis. Chemokine receptor CCR9 is primarily expressed by a small subset of immune cells and its only natural ligand, CCL25, is largely expressed in the thymus, which involutes with age. Other than the thymus, CCL25 is expressed by the small bowel. Interactions between CCL25 and CCR9 have been implicated in leukocyte trafficking to the small bowel, a frequent metastatic site for OvCa cells. The current study shows OvCa tissue and cells significantly express CCR9, which interacts with CCL25 to support carcinoma cell migration and invasion.Methods: RT-PCR and flow cytometry techniques were used to quantify the expression CCR9 by OvCa cells. OvCa tissue microarrays (TMA) was used to confirm CCR9 expression in clinical samples. The Aperio ScanScope scanning system was used to quantify immunohistochemical staining. Cell invasion and migration assays were performed using cell migration and matrigel invasion chambers. Matrix metalloproteinase (MMP) mRNAs were quantified by RT-PCR and active MMPs were quantified by ELISA.Results: Our results show significantly (p < 0.001) higher expression of CCR9 by mucinous adenocarcinoma, papillary serous carcinoma, and endometriod ovarian carcinoma cases, than compared to non-neoplastic ovarian tissue. Furthermore, CCR9 expression was significantly elevated in OvCa cell lines (OVCAR-3 and CAOV-3) in comparison to normal adult ovarian epithelial cell mRNA. OvCa cells showed higher migratory and invasive potential towards chemotactic gradients of CCL25, which was inhibited by anti-CCR9 antibodies. Expression of collagenases (MMP-1, -8, and -13), gelatinases (MMP-2 and -9), and stromelysins (MMP-3, -10, and -11) by OvCa cells were modulated by CCL25 in a CCR9-dependent fashion.Conclusions: These results demonstrate both biological significance and clinical relevance of CCL25 and CCR9 interactions in OvCa cell metastasis. © 2010 Johnson et al; licensee BioMed Central Ltd.