When monocytes isolated from human blood adhere to glass substratum, actin- and vinculin-containing punctate plaques rapidly appear at the ventral surface of the cells. We show here that highly purified human leukocyte interferon (IFN) can inhibit formation of these adhesion plaques in a dose-dependent manner. Complete inhibition was obtained when 300 IU/ml IFN were added into the cell-seeding medium. Plaques already formed in the absence of IFN were only partially affected by subsequent addition of IFN into the culture medium. Prevention by IFN of the formation of the adhesion plaques was associated with loosened attachment of the cells to the substratum. Effect of IFN on cellular morphology was complex. At higher doses, IFN added to the cultures within 24 h of seeding almost completely inhibited the differentiation of monocytes to macrophages and most of the cells remained rounded. At lower doses, however, an enhancement of the bipolar spreading was seen and the end result was a culture with predominantly elongated fibroblastoid cells. The latter cells, unlike the fibroblastoid cells in untreated monocyte-macrophage cultures, were completely devoid of the actin plaques, while the reorganization of vimentin-type intermediate filaments took place in a normal manner. These results further support the view that the actin- and vinculin-containing plaques have a role in mediating firm adherence of human monocytes to growth substratum.