Ligands in the extracellular matrix (ECM) are known to mediate migration of normal as well as tumor cells via adhesion molecules such as the integrin receptor family. We develop a microliter scale (15-20 microliters total volume) monolayer migration assay to investigate the ability of astrocytoma cells to disperse on surfaces coated with purified human ECM protein ligands. In this system the rate of radial migration of the cell population was constant over time. For human astrocytoma cell lines U-251 and SF-767, laminin and collagen type IV supported a migratory phenotype; fibronectin and vitronectin only minimally supported migration. The different ECM proteins also influenced growth rate: cells on laminin and collagen had a protracted lag phase. Furthermore, migrating cells seeded on laminin or collagen showed a lower labeling index than did stationary cells in the central, crowded region on the same substrate. This micro-scale migration assay should enable detailed molecular and biochemical studies of the determinants of migration.