The biologic characteristics of the two human giant-cell lung carcinoma strains with high (strain D) and low metastatic potential (strain C) were studied, including karyotype of chromosome, intracellular free calcium ([Ca2+]i), morphologic changes of cell surface and the expression of nm23-H1, p53, ras, c-myc, c-erbB2, bcl-2 genes and PCNA. The correlation between different biologic features and the metastatic potential of the two strains was analyzed. We found: 1) Both strains had the karyotypic abnormality of -13, -14, -15, +20, +21 with seven same marker chromosomes. Only strain D had the karyotypic abnormality of +7, -17, -18, +X, 7p+; 2) [Ca2+]i of the strain C (984.7 +/- 573.8) and D (517.6 +/- 216.6) was significantly different (p < 0.05). The amplitude of intracellular calcium oscillations of strain C was lower than the one of strain D; 3) strain C had more villous-like protrusions on the cell surface, whereas strain D had more bubble-like protrusions; 4) The expression of nm23-H1 and p53 protein of strain C was all higher than that of strain D. The expression of PCNA of strain C was lower than strain D; 5) nm23-H1 mRNA levels of strain C was lower than that of strain D. We consider that the karyotype of chromosomes, intracellular free calcium, the structure of cell membrane and the expression of nm23-H1 gene, p53 gene, PCNA could be closely related to the metastatic potential of human giant-cell lung carcinoma. They could be used as the sign for judging whether the tumor will metastasize in clinical practice as well as in judging the prognoses of patients.