Interplay between laminin-5 (Ln-5) and its integrin (Int) receptors alpha2beta1, alpha3beta1 and alpha6beta4 has been implicated in the progression and invasion of carcinomas. In this study we found abundant immunoreactivity for chains of Ln-5 (alpha3-beta3-gamma2) and Ln-10 (alpha5-beta1-gamma1), as well as for type VII collagen, in basement membranes (BM) of colorectal adenomas. In carcinomas of all differentiation grades, Lns were seen in tumor BMs, whereas type VII collagen was almost absent. Ln-5 appeared to accumulate along the invading edges of carcinomas, while Ln-10 was mostly absent. Immunoreactivity for Ln al chain, a component of Lns-1 and -3, was not seen in adenomas or carcinomas. Immunoreactivity for alpha2, alpha6, beta1 and beta4 Ints was found in all tumors and that for alpha3 Int in all adenomas and most of the carcinomas, often in colocalization with Ln-5. Immunoblotting of carcinoma tissues showed that the gamma2 chain of Ln-5 was present as typical Mr 105000 and 155000 isoforms. Immunoprecipitation experiments showed production of Ln-5 by cultured colon carcinoma cells. In quantitative cell adhesion experiments, function-blocking MAbs to alpha3 and beta1 Int subunits, but not those to Int alpha2 or alpha6 subunits, significantly inhibited the adhesion of cells to Ln-5. Our results suggest that BM composition in colorectal adenomas reflects the properties of surface epithelial BM of colorectal mucosa. In invading carcinomas, trimeric Ln-5, produced by carcinoma cells, is a major BM component and the cells use the alpha3beta1 Int complex for adhesion to Ln-5.