Vasculogenic mimicry describes a process where aggressive tumor cells in three-dimensional matrices mimic embryonic vasculogenesis by forming extracellular matrix (ECM)-rich, patterned tubular networks. Microarray gene chip analyses revealed significant increases in the expression of laminin 5 (Ln-5, gamma2 chain) and matrix metalloproteinases (MMP)-1, -2, -9, and MT1-MMP (MMP-14) in aggressive compared with poorly aggressive melanoma cells. These components colocalized with developing patterned networks and antisense oligonucleotides to the Ln-5 gamma2 chain (but not sense oligonucleotides), and antibodies to MMP-2 or MT1-MMP (but not MMP-9) inhibited the formation of these networks. Cultures which did not receive antibodies to either MMPs-2 or -14 contained the Ln-5 gamma2 chain promigratory cleavage fragments. Poorly aggressive melanoma cells seeded on collagen I matrices preconditioned by the aggressive cells formed tubular networks along the Ln-5 gamma2 chain-enriched tracks deposited by the aggressive cells. These results suggest that increased expression of MMP-2 and MT1-MMP, along with matrix deposition of the Ln-5 gamma2 chain and/or its cleavage fragments, are required for vasculogenic mimicry by aggressive melanoma cells. Furthermore, the apparent recapitulation of laminin-rich, patterned networks observed in aggressive melanoma patients' tissue sections by aggressive melanoma tumor cells in three-dimensional culture may also serve as a model to help identify specific molecular targets which could function as templates for the coordinated migration of aggressive tumor cells and their proteolytic remodeling of the ECM and may have profound implications for the development of novel therapies directed at the ECM to alter tumor progression.