Dipeptidyl peptidase IV is an exopeptidase found in the serum and in plasma membranes of most animal tissues. The role of this enzyme in cell-matrix interaction of BHK cells and hepatocytes grown on collagen-coated surfaces was investigated by three different approaches. 1) Glass surfaces were derivatized with bovine serum albumin which resulted in a cell-repulsing substratum. When it was further modified with Gly-Pro-Ala tripeptide, which is a substrate for dipeptidyl peptidase IV, BHK fibroblasts spread on it rapidly. The spreading could be inhibited by addition of free Gly-Pro-Ala or other substrates of the enzyme as well as by an inhibitor peptide Val-Pro-Leu. It was not influenced by tripeptides which were neither substrates nor inhibitors of dipeptidyl peptidase IV. 2) The addition of Gly-Pro-Ala to seeded cells slowed down the initial process of cell spreading on denatured collagen in the presence of fibronectin. The presence of both collagen and fibronectin was a necessary precondition for the spreading of cells in a manner sensitive to Gly-Pro-Ala. 3) Antiserum raised against mouse liver dipeptidyl peptidase IV added to the medium delayed the spreading of rat hepatocytes on denatured collagen in the presence of fibronectin in a manner similar to when Gly-Pro-Ala was added to the medium. These observations lead to the conclusion that plasma membrane dipeptidyl peptidase IV may be involved in the initial phase of fibronectin-mediated cell spreading on collagen.