Human erythroblastic progenitors (colony-forming unit-erythroid [CFU-E] and burst-forming unit-erythroid [BFU-E]) have been shown to attach to fibronectin (Fn), a property that might be involved in the local regulation of erythropoiesis. In this study, we have investigated changes in cell attachment to Fn upon terminal erythroid differentiation. We first purified CFU-E from human marrow by avidin- biotin immune rosetting. This negative selection procedure yielded a cell population containing approximately 80% blasts that, after characterization by colony-assays and electron microscopy, appeared to consist of CFU-E (10% to 15%) and their immediate progeny (85% to 90%), here defined as “preproerythroblasts.” In the presence of erythropoietin, purified cells differentiated into reticulocytes in 7 to 10 days. Cell attachment to Fn was inversely correlated to the stage of differentiation of the erythroid cell: more than 50% of the CFU-E population reproducibly adhered to Fn, whereas at most 30% of the preproerythroblasts had the same capacity. Adhesion was further lost at late maturation stages, and a constant finding was the inability of reticulocytes to adhere to Fn. Finally, CFU-E adhesion to Fn was blocked by polyclonal lgG raised against the Fn receptor and by a monoclonal antibody against VLA-5. These results demonstrate that adhesion to Fn is developmentally regulated during normal human erythropoiesis. Restriction of its expression to CFU-E and its first divisions strikingly correlates with the migratory capacity of these cells.