Rat monoclonal antibodies were raised against fragment E3 of the mouse Engelbreth-Holm-Swarm (EHS) tumor laminin and selected according to their exclusive reaction with laminin A chain by immunoblotting and staining pattern in embryonic kidneys by immunofluorescence. Immunochemical studies of nine purified antibodies showed a comparable reaction with unfragmented laminin and fragment E3 but no cross-reaction with several other, unrelated laminin fragments including the major cell-binding fragment E8. Reduction or pepsin digestion of fragment E3 reduced or abolished antibody binding indicating that most of the epitopes involved are conformation dependent and do not include carbohydrates. They are, however, not identical as shown by different reactivities after proteolytic or chemical cleavage of E3. Four of the antibodies were highly active in inhibiting cell adhesion of the teratocarcinoma cell line F9 and the Schwannoma cell line RN22 on fragment E3 (IC50 approximately 1 microgram/ml), while the others were distinctly less active. No inhibition was observed for cell adhesion on unfragmented laminin, consistent with previous findings that this is largely mediated by binding of fragment E8 to alpha 6 beta 1 integrin. A distinct correlation was observed between cell adhesion inhibition and the inhibition of heparansulfate proteoglycan and heparin binding to fragment E3. Since heparin is not very efficient in inhibiting cell adhesion, it indicates that heparin- and cell-binding sites on fragment E3 are in close proximity but not identical. Two of the antibodies also showed partial inhibition of kidney tubule formation in organ culture of embryonic kidney mesenchyme while the other antibodies were inactive. It suggests some but probably minor involvement of the fragment E3 structure of laminin in this developmental process.