To elucidate the mechanisms involved in monocyte/macrophage adhesion and fusion to form foreign body giant cells on molecularly engineered surfaces, we have utilized our in vitro culture system to examine surface chemistry effects, cytoskeletal reorganization and adhesive structure development, and cell receptor-ligand interactions in in vitro foreign body giant cell formation. Utilizing silane-modified surfaces, monocyte/macrophage adhesion was essentially unaffected by surface chemistry, however the density of foreign body giant cells (FBGCs) was correlated with surface carbon content. An exception to the surface-independent macrophage adhesion were the alkyl-silane modified surfaces which exhibited reduced adhesion and FBGC formation. Utilizing confocal immunofluorescent techniques, cytoskeletal reorganization and adhesive structure development in in vitro FBGC formation was studied. Podosomes were identified as the adhesive structures in macrophages and FBGCs based on the presence of characteristic cytoplasmic proteins and F-actin at the ventral cell surface. Focal adhesion kinase (FAK) and focal adhesions were not identified as the adhesive structures in macrophages and FBGCs. In studying the effect of preadsorbed proteins on FBGC formation, fibronectin or vitronectin do not play major roles in initial monocyte/macrophage adhesion, whereas polystyrene surfaces modified with RGD exhibited significant FBGC formation. These studies identify the potential importance of surface chemistry-dependent conformational alterations which may occur in proteins adsorbed to surfaces and their potential involvement in receptor-ligand interactions. Significantly, preadsorption of alpha2-macroglobulin facilitated macrophage fusion and FBGC formation readily on the RGD surface in the absence of any additional serum proteins. As alpha2-macroglobulin receptors are not found on blood monocytes but are expressed only with macrophage development, these results point to a potential interaction between adsorbed 2-macroglobulin and its receptors on macrophages during macrophage development and fusion. These studies identify important surface independent and dependent effects in foreign body reaction development that may be important in the identification of biological design criteria for molecularly engineered surfaces and tissue engineered devices.