The phenotypic heterogeneity of tumor cell-surface galactose expression within a cell population may dictate metastatic potential. The hepatic asialoglycoprotein receptor, whose known function is to bind to terminal galactose residues of desialylated glycoproteins and effete cells, may participate in the arrest and subsequent growth of subpopulations of tumor cells with high galactose expression. To test this hypothesis, murine colon carcinoma cells (CT-26) were sorted, using the galactose-specific lectin, soybean agglutinin (SBA), and fluorescence-activated cell-sorting (FACS) technology, into two subpopulations-one low in surface galactose and one high in surface galactose. After intrasplenic injection of tumor cell subpopulations, liver metastasis was found to be proportional to the degree of tumor cell-surface galactose expression. These data suggest that tumor galactose expression and hepatic recognition may be important components of a specific mechanism of colorectal liver metastasis. © 1989.