The MUC6 mucin has a critical protective function in the normal stomach, pancreas and duodenum and is aberrantly expressed during the progression of some gastrointestinal cancers. Our aim was to determine whether MUC6 contributes to the etiology or progression of pancreatic cancer and elucidate the molecular basis of its involvement. Expression of MUC6 glycoprotein was examined in pancreatic cancer tissues by immunofluorescence and loss of MUC6 was observed. Next, to determine whether MUC6 inhibits tumor growth and metastasis by altering cell adhesion and invasion, recombinant MUC6 cDNA and separate MUC6 N-terminal and C-terminal domains were transfected into pancreatic, colorectal and breast cancer cell lines. The recombinant N- and C-terminal proteins were each seen to oligomerize under non-reducing conditions. Overexpression of both domains of the MUC6 glycoprotein significantly inhibited cell adhesion to matrix proteins (collagen I, collagen IV, fibronectin and laminin) in LS 180 but not in PANC-1 cells. Moreover, the N- and C-terminal domains of MUC6 inhibited invasion of both LS 180 and PANC-1 cells by 40% and 70%, respectively, in comparison with controls. These results suggest that MUC6 may inhibit invasion of tumor cells through the basement membrane of the pancreatic duct and slow the development of infiltrating carcinoma.