The experimental metastasis of B16-F10 murine melanoma cells is blocked by the anti-cell adhesive pentapeptide Gly-Arg-Gly-Asp-Ser (GRGDS) derived from the central cell-binding domain of fibronectin. In this report, we show that peptide treatment substantially extends the survival time for mice injected intravenously with B16-F10 cells (8/8 vs. 0/8 mice alive at 150 d), thereby demonstrating the potential efficacy of GRGDS treatment in protection against metastatic colonization. We have also examined the specificity of GRGDS activity by testing a series of related homologues for their effects on experimental metastasis. The overall profile of the relative inhibitory activities of these peptides closely matched their previously established capacity to disrupt adhesion in vitro. Lung retention studies with radiolabeled B16-F10 cells revealed an accelerated rate of cell loss from the lung 0-6 h after coinjection with the active peptide GRGDS. This early effect of GRGDS was consistent with its short circulatory half-life, which was found to be 8 min. Taken together, these results suggest that peptide-mediated inhibition of pulmonary colonization is due to interference with B16-F10 cell adhesion to structures in the target organ. Possible peptide interference in tumor cell-blood cell interactions was examined in order to assess (a) possible biological side-effects of peptide treatment and (b) whether such interactions might be an alternative mechanism for GRGDS-mediated inhibition of pulmonary colonization. GRGDS was found to retain full inhibitory activity when coinjected with B16-F10 cells into mice in which platelet function was impaired by acetylsalicylic acid treatment or into thrombocytopenic mice treated with antiplatelet serum (76-93% inhibition of colony formation). These data suggest that platelet involvement in the effects of the peptide is minimal. Similarly, GRGDS was also found to be a potent inhibitor of experimental metastasis in natural killer (NK) cell-deficient beige mice (86% inhibition), thereby discounting the possibility that GRGDS artifactually enhanced NK cell activity. We conclude as a result of these studies that cell-binding fibronectin peptides are specific inhibitors of experimental metastasis that prolong survival, that they appear to function by blocking the adhesion of B16-F10 cells to structures in the target organ, and that they do not appear to act through side effects on certain metastasis-related blood cell functions. In the future, derivatives of fibronectin peptides may be potentially useful prophylactic agents for interfering with the process of metastasis.