Integrins are a superfamily of related molecules whose function, where known, is to mediate adhesion. The so-called very-late-activation antigen (VLA) family includes at least five distinct heterodimers, each composed of a unique alpha-subunit non-covalently associated with a common beta-subunit. Several members of the family have been shown to bind extracellular matrix proteins, but the function of VLA-4 is so far unknown. VLA-4 is the only member of the family detected on thymocytes and resting T cells. We show here that an antibody which recognizes the beta-subunit of VLA-4 (CD29) on T cells can inhibit CD4+ cell proliferation triggered by CD2 or CD3, and that binding of this antibody to activated T cells leads to an increase in cyclic AMP levels which is comparable to that elicited by forskolin. These negative signalling effects are unique to this antibody: other CD29 antibodies do not affect the growth of activated CD4 cells but enhance the proliferation of whole T cell populations and abrogate the suppressive effects of mitomycin-treated CD8 cells on CD4-cell growth. Taken together, our results indicate that VLA-4 functions in cell-cell interactions and that it is the target for the suppressive effects of CD8 cells on CD4 cells.