The integrin alpha v beta 3 binds promiscuously to cell-adhesive proteins: vitronectin, fibronectin, and several others containing the RGD motif. We have explored molecular recognition by alpha v beta 3 through selection of ligands from large random libraries of peptides displayed on phage. Ligands bound by alpha beta 3 consisted primarily of RGD peptides; however, these peptides showed considerable heterogeneity with respect to the identities of amino acids flanking RGD. The tolerance of alpha v beta 3 for RGD peptides of diverse composition is consistent with its role in vivo as a versatile receptor for RGD-containing extracellular matrix proteins. Peptide ligands for alpha v beta 3 also included a novel binding sequence, identical to a tetrapeptide found in vitronectin, which is a candidate for a synergistic site in this adhesive protein that may act in concert with RGD to promote molecular recognition.