Streptavidin is a biotin-binding analogue of egg-white avidin which is secreted by the bacterium Streptomyces avidinii. We have recently reported that streptavidin contains an Arg-Tyr-Asp-Ser (RYDS) sequence which exhibits structural homology to the Arg-Gly-Asp-Ser (RGDS) cell adhesion domain of fibronectin and other matrix-associated glycoproteins. Competition studies with RGD peptides indicated that streptavidin binds to cells via this site and that the binding is independent of biotin recognition. Since the RGD-containing peptide has been shown to play a key role in integrin-mediated cell adhesion, we assumed that streptavidin may utilize the RYDS site to bind to immune cells and thereby abrogate their adhesion-dependent functions. We now report that streptavidin modulates several matrix-dependent interactions of immune cells. In this context, immobilized streptavidin was found to support activated human CD4+ T cell adhesion in an RGD-specific, alpha 5 beta 1-dependent manner. In addition, soluble streptavidin (the commercially available or biotin-blocked forms) inhibited T cell adhesion to fibronectin and interfered with its co-stimulatory effect on tumor necrosis factor-alpha secretion by co-cultures of CD4+ T cells and macrophages. These results suggest that streptavidin is a novel example of a bacterial protein which utilizes RGD mimicry to interfere with integrin-mediated immune responses.