Dipeptidyl peptidase IV (DPPIV) is a multifunctional cell-surface protein that, as well as having dipeptidase activity, is the major binding protein for adenosine deaminase (ADA) and also binds extracellular matrix proteins such as fibronectin and collagen. It typically reduces the activity of chemokines and other peptide mediators as a result of its enzymatic activity. DPPIV is aberrantly expressed in many cancers, and decreased expression has been linked to increases in invasion and metastasis. We asked whether adenosine, a purine nucleoside that is present at increased levels in the hypoxic tumor microenvironment, might affect the expression of DPPIV at the cell surface. Treatment with a single dose of adenosine produced an initial transient (1 to 4 hours) modest (∼10%) increase in DPPIV, followed by a more profound (∼40%) depression of DPPIV protein expression at the surface of HT-29 human colon carcinoma cells, with a maximal decline being reached after 48 hours, and persisting for at least a week with daily exposure to adenosine. This down-regulation of DPPIV occurred at adenosine concentrations comparable to those present within the extracellular fluid of colorectal tumors growing in vivo , and was not elicited by inosine or guanosine. Neither cellular uptake of adenosine nor its phosphorylation was necessary for the down-regulation of DPPIV. The decrease in DPPIV protein at the cell surface was paralleled by decreases in DPPIV enzyme activity, binding of ADA, and the ability of the cells to bind to and migrate on cellular fibronectin. Adenosine, at concentrations that exist within solid tumors, therefore acts at the surface of colorectal carcinoma cells to decrease levels and activities of DPPIV. This down-regulation of DPPIV may increase the sensitivity of cancer cells to the tumor-promoting effects of adenosine and their response to chemokines and the extracellular matrix, facilitating their expansion and metastasis.