In the present study we have used fluorocytometry and immunoprecipitation to characterize the expression of alphav-containing integrins in a panel of eight human breast cancer cell lines and one normal human mammary epithelial line. We show that the classical vitronectin receptor alphavbeta3 is expressed in only one cell line (MDA-MB-231), whereas alphavbeta5 is expressed on all breast cancer cell lines and alphavbeta1 is expressed on the majority. Using adherence assays to purified ligands in the presence and absence of function-blocking monoclonal antibodies, we have demonstrated that alphavbeta5 mediates adhesion to vitronectin in the majority of these cells. In one cell line, ZR75-1, alphavbeta1 contributes significantly to adhesion to immobilized vitronectin. The formation of focal adhesions containing the alphav and beta1 subunits on vitronectin is also demonstrated by indirect immunofluorescence.