During terminal differentiation keratinocytes move out of the basal layer of the epidermis and thereby lose contact with the basement membrane. We show that terminal differentiation in culture involves loss of adhesiveness to fibronectin, laminin, and collagen types I and IV. The adhesive changes precede, by several hours, loss of the alpha 2 beta 1, alpha 3 beta 1, and alpha 5 beta 1 integrins from the cell surface. Keratinocyte adhesion to fibronectin is mediated by the alpha 5 beta 1 integrin, and the decrease in adhesion of intact cells to fibronectin is correlated with a decrease in the ability of alpha 5 beta 1 receptors to bind fibronectin. Thus modulation of integrin function early in terminal differentiation may be an early event determining cell migration out of the basal layer.