Transforming growth factor β (TGF-β) isoforms are secreted as inactive complexes formed through noncovalent interactions between the bioactive TGF-β entity and its N-terminal latency-associated peptide prodomain. Extracellular activation of the latent TGF-β complex is a crucial step in the regulation of TGF-β function for tissue homeostasis. We show that the fibrinogen-like (FBG) domain of the matrix glycoprotein tenascin-X (TNX) interacts physically with the small latent TGF-β complex in vitro and in vivo, thus regulating the bioavailability of mature TGF-β to cells by activating the latent cytokine into an active molecule. Activation by the FBG domain most likely occurs through a conformational change in the latent complex and involves a novel cell adhesion-dependent mechanism. We identify α11β1 integrin as a cell surface receptor for TNX and show that this integrin is crucial to elicit FBG-mediated activation of latent TGF-β and subsequent epithelial-to-mesenchymal transition in mammary epithelial cells.