Fibronectin (FN), an extracellular matrix protein, is involved in the adhesion and migration of hematopoietic cells and has been shown to enhance retroviral gene transfer into primitive hematopoietic cells by co-localization of target cells and retrovirus when used as a substrate in vitro. We have previously found that mouse hematopoietic stem cells could be transduced on a FN fragment that included the recognition sequence Arg-Gly-Asp (RGD), suggesting that stem cells may express the integrin very late antigen (VLA)-5. To address this, we investigated the binding of mouse and human hematopoietic cells to recombinant peptides that contained one or a combination of the three principle cell-binding domains of FN. These domains included the VLA-5- binding sequence RGD, the VLA-4-binding site CS1, and the high affinity heparin-binding domain. Here we show that mouse long-term in vivo repopulating stem cells, as well as primitive human NOD/SCID mouse repopulating cells, can bind extracellular matrix protein FN by using integrin VLA-5 in vitro. This binding is specific and can be inhibited by antibodies to VLA-5. In addition, preincubation of BM cells with peptide CH-296, which contains all three primary FN-binding domains, decreased the engraftment of cells in the bone marrow in vivo, while intravenous injection of the same peptide induced an increase of progenitor cells in the spleen. In summary, our data demonstrate that VLA-5 is expressed on primitive mouse and human hematopoietic cells and suggest that there may be significant cooperation between integrin receptors and proteoglycan molecules in the engraftment of bone marrow cells and hematopoietic cell adhesion in vivo.