Integrin/extracellular-matrix interactions are central to the migration, localization, and subsequent function of lymphocytes within tissues. In hairy cell leukemia (HCL) the malignant cells display a highly characteristic tissue distribution in which interactions with extracellular matrix (ECM) are often prominent. Therefore, we used HCL as a model in which to investigate the poorly understood integrin/ECM interactions that underlie the migratory behavior of malignant B lymphocytes. Using a combined approach involving immunocytochemistry, flow cytometry, and immunoprecipitation analysis, hairy cells (HCs) were shown to have a consistent and distinctive phenotype (mainly alpha 4 beta 1, alpha 5 beta 1, alpha v beta 1, and alpha v beta 3). Furthermore, functional studies utilising adhesion assays, time-lapse video-microscopy and image analysis showed that the HCs displayed very specific adhesive behaviour in response to relevant adhesive protein ligands. HCs were able to adhere to different extents on all the adhesive proteins examined, but, on laminin and collagen, binding was weak with little cytoplasmic spreading. In contrast, the cells showed strong adhesion both to fibronectin (FN) and to vitronectin (VN). On FN, the cells spread extensively with nonpolarized cytoplasmic projections, whereas on VN cytoplasmic projections were markedly polarized. This polarized morphology was shown to reflect cell motility. Investigation of the role of individual integrin receptors in the cell movement response suggested that alpha v beta 3 is the major integrin responsible for this motile behavior. These results are discussed in relation to the limited previous data on leukemic and activated B-cell integrins, and we suggest that the HC integrins play a significant role in the characteristic behavior of HCs within tissues.