Chronic use of nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs results in a significant reduction of risk and mortality from colorectal cancer in humans. All of the mechanism(s) by which nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs exert their protective effects are not completely understood, but they are known to inhibit cyclooxygenase activity. The cyclooxygenase enzymes catalyze a key reaction in the conversion of arachidonic acid to prostaglandins, such as prostaglandin E(2) (PGE(2)). Here we demonstrate that PGE(2) treatment of LS-174 human colorectal carcinoma cells leads to increased motility and changes in cell shape. The prostaglandin EP(4) receptor signaling pathway appears to play a role in transducing signals which regulate these effects. PGE(2) treatment results in an activation of phosphatidylinositol 3-kinase/protein kinase B pathway that is required for the PGE(2)-induced changes in carcinoma cell motility and colony morphology. Our results suggest that PGE(2) might enhance the invasive potential of colorectal carcinoma cells via activation of major intracellular signal transduction pathways not previously reported to be regulated by prostaglandins.