Using microcell-mediated transfer of a normal chromosome 11 into the highly metastatic MDA-MB-435 human breast carcinoma cell line, we previously showed that human chromosome 11 contains a metastasis-suppressor gene for breast cancer. A known metastasis-suppressor gene, kai-1, and a related family member, tapa-1, have been mapped to chromosome 11p11.2 and 11p15.5, respectively. To determine if these genes are responsible for the metastasis suppression seen in our microcell hybrids, we examined their expression by western blot analysis. Although tapa-1 expression did not significantly correlate with metastasis suppression, kai-1 production was dramatically increased in the metastasis-suppressed chromosome 11 microcell hybrids and unchanged in the metastatic chromosome 6 controls. Transfection of full- length kai-1 cDNA into MDA-MB-435 cells resulted in clones that did not have a significantly decreased in vivo incidence of lung metastases. However, western blot analysis showed that the primary tumors and the metastatic lesions of the transfectants had decreased levels of kai-1 protein compared with the inoculated cells. Furthermore, several of the transfectant clones expressed heavily modified kai-1 protein compared with that of the microcell hybrids. Our data indicate that protein modification may affect the normal function of kai-1 in vivo and that a threshold level of kai-1 protein expression may be necessary for suppression of the metastatic phenotype.