We have compared the adhesive properties and integrin expression profiles of cultured human epidermal keratinocytes and a strain of nondifferentiating keratinocytes (ndk). Both cell types adhered to fibronectin, laminin, and collagen types I and IV, but ndk adhered more rapidly and at lower coating concentrations of the proteins. Antibody blocking experiments showed that adhesion of both cell types to fibronectin was mediated by the alpha 5 beta 1 integrin and to laminin by alpha 3 beta 1 in synergy with alpha 2 beta 1. Keratinocytes adhered to collagen with alpha 2 beta 1, but an antibody to alpha 2 did not inhibit adhesion of ndk to collagen. Both cell types adhered to vitronectin by alpha v-containing integrins. Immunoprecipitation of surface-iodinated and metabolically labeled cells showed that in addition to alpha 2 beta 1, alpha 3 beta 1, and alpha 5 beta 1, both keratinocytes and ndk expressed alpha 6 beta 4 and alpha v beta 5. ndk expressed all these integrins at higher levels than normal keratinocytes. ndk, but not normal keratinocytes, expressed alpha v beta 1 and alpha v beta 3; they also expressed alpha 1 beta 1, an integrin that was not consistently detected on normal keratinocytes. Immunofluorescence experiments showed that in stratified cultures of normal keratinocytes integrin expression was confined to cells in the basal layer; terminally differentiating cells were unstained. In contrast, all cells in the ndk population were integrin positive. Our observations showed that the adhesive properties of ndk differ from normal keratinocytes and reflect differences in the type of integrins expressed, the level of expression and the distribution of integrins on the cell surface. ndk thus have a number of characteristics that distinguish them from normal basal keratinocytes.