In this study a novel approach for the coating and functionalization of substrates for cell culture and tissue engineering is presented. Glass, silicon, and titanium panes were coated with an ultrathin film (30 ± 5 nm) of reactive star-shaped poly(ethylene glycol) prepolymers (Star PEG). Homogeneity of the films was checked by optical microscopy and scanning force microscopy. These coatings prevent unspecific protein adsorption as monitored by fluorescence microscopy and ellipsometry. In order to allow specific cell adhesion the films were modified with linear RGD peptides (gRGDsc) in different concentrations. After sterilization, fibroblast, SaOS, and human mesenchymal stem cells (hMSC) were seeded on these substrates. Cell adhesion, spreading, and survival was observed for up to 30 days on linear RGD peptide (gRGDsc)-modified coatings, whereas no cell adhesion could be detected on unmodified Star PEG layers. By variation of the RGD concentration within the film the amount of cells that became adhesive could be controlled. When differentiation conditions are used for cultivation of hMSCs the cells show the expression of osteogenic marker genes after 14 days which is comparable to cultivation on cell culture plastic. Thus, the Star PEG/RGD film did not negatively influence the differentiation process. The high flexibility of the system considering the incorporation of biologically active compounds opens a broad field of future experiments. © 2005 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.