Patients with mucinous colorectal cancers characteristically present with advanced disease, however, the relationship between mucin production by colon cancer cells and their metastatic potential remains unclear. We therefore sought to define the relationship between mucin production by human colon cancer cells and metastatic ability by employing animal models of colon cancer metastasis. LS LiM 6, a colon carcinoma cell line with high liver metastasizing ability during cecal growth in nude mice produced twofold more metabolically labeled intracellular mucin and secreted four- to fivefold more mucin into the culture medium compared to poorly metastatic parental line LS174T. This was accompanied by a similar elevation in poly(A)+ RNA detected by blot hybridization with a human intestinal mucin cDNA probe, and increases in mucin core carbohydrate antigens determined immunohistochemically. Variants of LS174T selected for high (HM 7) or low (LM 12) mucin synthesizing capacity also yielded metastases after cecal growth and colonized the liver after splenic-portal injection in proportion to their ability to produce mucin. Inhibition of mucin glycosylation by the arylglycoside benzyl-alpha-N-acetyl-galactosamine greatly reduced liver colonization after splenic-portal injection of the tumor cells. These data suggest that mucin production by human colon cancer cells correlates with their metastatic potential and affects their ability to colonize the liver in experimental model systems.