The attachment, spreading, spreading rate, focal contact formation, and cytoskeletal organization of human umbilical vein endothelial cells (HUVECs) were investigated on substrates that had been covalently grafted with the cell adhesion peptides Arg-Gly-Asp (RGD) and Tyr-Ile-Gly-Ser-Arg (YIGSR). This approach was used to provide substrates that were adhesive to cells even in the absence of serum proteins and with no prior pretreatment of the surface with proteins of the cell adhesion mol. (CAM) family. This approach was used to enhance the cell-adhesiveness of substrates that were otherwise cell-nonadhesive and to improve control of cellular interactions with cell-adhesive materials by providing stably bound adhesion ligands. Glycophase glass was examd. as a model cell-nonadhesive substrate prior to modification, and polyethylene terephthalate (PET) and polytetrafluoroethylene (PTFE) were examd. as representative materials for biomedical applications. The peptides were surface-coupled by their N-terminal amine to surface hydroxyl moieties using tresyl chloride chem. Prior to peptide grafting, the PET and PTFE were surface hydroxylated to yield PET-OH and PTFE-OH. The PET-OH was less cell-adhesive and the PTFE-OH was much more cell-adhesive than the native polymers. Radioiodination of the C-terminal tyrosine residue was used to quantify the amt. of peptide coupled to the surface, and these amts. were 12.1 pmol/cm2 on glycophase glass, 139 fmol/cm2 on PET-OH, and 31 fmol/cm2 on PTFE-OH. Although the glycophase glass did not support adhesion or spreading even in the presence of serum, the RGD- and YIGSR-grafted glycophase glass did support adhesion and spreading, even when the only serum protein that was included was albumin. Although PET and PTFE-OH supported adhesion when incubated in serum-supplemented medium, neither of these materials supported adhesion with only albumin present, indicating that cell adhesion is mediated by adsorbed CAM proteins. When these materials were peptide-grafted, however, extensive adhesion and spreading did occur even when only albumin was present. Since the peptide grafting is quite easily controlled and is temporally stable, while protein adsorption is quite difficult to precisely control and is temporally dynamic, peptide grafting may be advantageous over other approaches employed to improve long-term cell adhesion to biomaterials. [on SciFinder (R)]