Incubation of cells with selenite, under conditions in which there is no effect on cell viability, results in a decrease in the rate of their subsequent attachment to extracellular matrix proteins such as fibronectin (1). The attachment was inhibited by a pentapeptide containing the RGD sequence and by antibody against the cellular fibronectin receptor (alpha 5 beta 1 integrin), indicating that it is receptor-mediated. To investigate whether exposure to selenite has an effect on fibronectin receptors, we assayed for their presence on the cell surface by measuring the ability of cells to attach to a surface that had been coated with antibodies to the receptor. Brief exposure of cells to low concentrations of selenite resulted in a significant decrease in their ability to attach to monoclonal antibodies against the alpha 5 or beta 1 subunits of the fibronectin receptor, as well as to polyclonal antibodies against the complete receptor. This indicates that exposure to selenite results in a decrease in receptors that are present at the cell surface. Exposure of the cells to selenate, selenocystine or selenomethionine did not result in a significant decrease in cell surface receptors. Preincubation of the cells with selenite was required for the effect, indicating that selenite does not directly interfere with receptor structure or function.