BACKGROUND: The axon guidance cue molecule Slit2 has been shown to suppress cancer cell invasion. However, the role of Slit2 in growth inhibition is still controversial. The authors identified a novel exon 15 (AKEQYFIP)-deleted slit2, located at the end of the second leucine-rich repeat (LRR2). Because LRR2 interacts with Robo1 receptor to inhibit invasion, they hypothesized that exon 15 plays an important role in modulating Slit2 function. METHODS: Slit2 expression was assessed via microarray analysis in 27 lung adenocarcinomas. Exon 15-deleted slit2 (slit2-ΔE15) and exon 15-containing slit2 (slit2-WT) were cloned and expressed in the CL1-5 lung cancer cell line. The effect of exon 15 on Slit2-mediated cell growth was evaluated by a xenografted model and in vitro cell growth assays. The effect of exon 15 on Slit2-mediated invasion was analyzed with a modified Boyden chamber in vitro. RESULTS: Tumor growth from CL1-5/Slit2-WT cells was comparable to that from CL1-5 cells bearing empty vector. However, tumor size from CL1-5/Slit2-ΔE15 cells was much smaller than that from Slit2-WT cells or vector control cells in the xenografted model. In vitro analyses demonstrated that Slit2-WT inhibits invasion of CL1-5 cells. In addition to inhibiting invasion, Slit2-ΔE15 greatly suppresses cell growth. CONCLUSIONS: The data demonstrated that exon 15 modulates Slit2 function in growth inhibition of lung cancer cells. Because slit2-ΔE15 splice variant is present in low invasive cancer cells and nontumor lung tissues, loss of this splice variant is an important event in tumor progression and invasion.