Integrin-mediated adhesion of anchorage-dependent cells to scaffolds is a critical component of tissue engineering. We investigated integrin expression by the human fetal osteoblastic cell line, hFOB 1.19 (hFOB), as a function of substratum surface wettability. The influence of surface wettability on bone cell phenotype was also examined. Plasma-treated quartz (PTQ) and glass (PTG) (hydrophilic, contact angles of 0 degrees), octadecyltrichlorosilane-treated quartz (STQ) and glass (STG) (hydrophobic, contact angles above about 100 degrees), and tissue culture polystyrene were used for cell culture. hFOB cells cultured on hydrophilic substrata displayed well-developed actin stress fibers relative to cells on hydrophobic substrata. Western blot analysis revealed that hFOB cells cultured on hydrophobic substrata (STQ or STG) express lower levels of alphav and beta3 integrin subunits than do cells on hydrophilic substrata (PTQ or PTG). This effect was more pronounced in cells on STQ than on STG. These variations in integrin expression were lessened by extended culture time. Double- labeled integrin/actin immunofluorescence confirmed Western blot results, that is, cells cultured on PTQ displayed distinct, large plaques of alphav and beta3 subunits and integrin alphavbeta3, as well as their colocalization with actin stress fiber ends, whereas cells on STQ did not display integrin plaques after 24 h and displayed only minimal plaque formation after 3 days. Vinculin, a focal adhesion protein that mediates binding between the integrin and actin cytoskeleton, appeared in Western blots to mimic the variations of alphav and beta3 expression with respect to surface wettability. Interestingly, real-time RT-PCR analysis showed that hFOB cultured on hydrophobic substrata, which have downregulated alphav and beta3 integrin subunits, displayed greater steady state mRNA levels of osteopontin, an extracellular matrix (ECM) protein containing the Arg-Gly-Asp (RGD) integrin recognition sequence, than did cells cultured on hydrophilic substrata. Our results imply that substratum surface wettability regulates integrin-mediated bone cell adhesion and further influences the expression of bone cell-ECM complexes.