The goal of this study was to investigate the effects of adhesion to the arginine-glycine-aspartic acid (RGD) sequence on the chondrogenesis of bone marrow stromal cells (BMSCs). Synthetic RGE- and RGD-containing peptides were conjugated to sodium alginate, and bovine BMSCs were seeded onto 2D alginate surfaces or encapsulated in 3D gels. BMSCs spread specifically on RGD-modified surfaces, and spreading was inhibited by a soluble RGD peptide and by anti-beta1 and anti-alpha(v)beta3 integrin blocking antibodies. After 7 days in 3D gel culture, the chondrogenic supplements (TGF-beta1 and dexamethasone) significantly stimulated chondrocytic gene expression (collagen II, aggrecan, and Sox-9) and matrix accumulation (collagen II and sGAG) in RGE-modified gels, but this response was inhibited in the RGD-modified gels. Inhibition of sGAG synthesis increased with increasing RGD density, and synthesis was partially rescued by adding a soluble RGD peptide. Addition of an anti-alpha(v)beta3 integrin blocking antibody had no effect on chondrogenesis, while an anti-alpha5 antibody reduced sGAG accumulation. Overall, this study demonstrates that interaction with the RGD motif significantly inhibits the initial chondrogenesis of BMSCs within 3D alginate gels. These results provide new insights into the role of cell-matrix interactions in regulating chondrogenesis and highlight the importance of choosing appropriate biomaterials for tissue engineering therapies.