Transforming growth factor beta (TGF-β) has received noteworthy attention in the recent past due to its unique characteristic of functionally switching roles from tumor suppressor to metastasis promoter. To uncover the black box surrounding the mechanisms of TGF-β, Taylor and colleagues performed global miRNA expression analyses using a murine mammary carcinoma progression model. They discovered multiple miRNA regulated by TGF-β and matrix stiffness. Focusing on miR-181a, they uncovered an intricate pathway regulating breast cancer metastasis that sheds new insight into metastasis regulation that may prove useful in clinical settings. © 2013 BioMed Central Ltd.