Proteins that contain the Arg-Gly-Asp (RGD) attachment site, together with the integrins that serve as receptors for them, constitute a major recognition system for cell adhesion. The RGD sequence is the cell attachment site of a large number of adhesive extracellular matrix, blood, and cell surface proteins, and nearly half of the over 20 known integrins recognize this sequence in their adhesion protein ligands. Some other integrins bind to related sequences in their ligands. The integrin-binding activity of adhesion proteins can be reproduced by short synthetic peptides containing the RGD sequence. Such peptides promote cell adhesion when insolubilized onto a surface, and inhibit it when presented to cells in solution. Reagents that bind selectively to only one or a few of the RGD-directed integrins can be designed by cyclizing peptides with selected sequences around the RGD and by synthesizing RGD mimics. As the integrin-mediated cell attachment influences and regulates cell migration, growth, differentiation, and apoptosis, the RGD peptides and mimics can be used to probe integrin functions in various biological systems. Drug design based on the RGD structure may provide new treatments for diseases such as thrombosis, osteoporosis, and cancer.